UAE bowlers Imran Haider and Qadeer Ahmed got another opportunity to be part of a training session with a Test-playing nation after the pair were invited to train with Pakistan’s ODI squad.
Spinner Haider, 29, and pacer Ahmed, 31, were both recommended by UAE head coach Dougie Brown after Pakistan batting coach Grant Flower wanted his batsmen to be tested by high quality bowlers.
Since Sunday, the Pakistan-born players have been bowling to the likes of Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez with the Champions Trophy winners getting their ODI series underway in Dubai on Friday against Sri Lanka.
The pair are no strangers to rubbing shoulders with the international’s elite. Just last year, they were selected to be part of Australia’s training sessions during their camp in Dubai prior to the Baggy Green Test series against India.
For Haider, not only was it a dream come true to bowl against his native side but it was also a reunion with one or two of the players.
“Most of the players know me and met me after a long time,” he said. “I played with Ahmed Shehzad and Shoaib Malik during may days when I was playing in Pakistan during domestic games and it was nice to see them. I was even more happy that I was bowling against them in the nets.
“I’ve really wanted to play an international match against Pakistan but I’ve not had that opportunity. Hopefully we can have a chance to do that in the future. It was a good experience and these couple of days has given me a lot of confidence.”
For Ahmed, he got to pick the brains of Pakistan’s bowling coach Azhar Mahmood and even though it was just a nets session, he was eager to prove his potential.
“I had been struggling with my run-up against Namibia (in the last tour) and was working on that with Azhar Bhai. He gave me advice on my run-up and spent around 30 minutes with me on how to improve my bowling which was very useful,” he said.
“When Test playing nations are here, it’s always a good opportunity. It might be a little bit hard to get their wickets in nets because they are so good but I wanted to get their wickets even though it was a training session.”
Zayed Cricket Academy, Abu Dhabi’s most prestigious junior cricket coaching programme put its raw recruits to work during the first Pakistan-Sri Lanka Test match at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Ten boys from the academy, aged 10-14 years old, volunteered as ball boys for the five day test match, which finished with a last-gasp victory for the tourists.
The boys, who all live in the UAE capital, enthusiastically worked as runners, patrolling the boundary and returning balls to the field of play, to ensure the test match ran smoothly and efficiently.
The youngsters of all abilities come from various coaching programmes within the Zayed Cricket Academy, which aims to introduce children to basic cricketing skills whilst stimulating healthy and active lifestyles.
Fondly looking back on an exciting five days volunteering at the test match, nine-year old Rayed Khan said: “I loved volunteering, it was my dream to meet the Pakistani players and my dream has now come true!”
The Academy’s home is the Abu Dhabi Cricket facility, which includes the 18,000 capacity Zayed Cricket Stadium.
The facility is currently undergoing major renovation and will soon boast two new grass football pitches slated for 2017 FIFA Club World Cup training pitches, as well as multi-purpose courts for netball, tennis and basketball.
The Zayed Cricket Academy facilities are also being upgraded. Eight existing wickets have been renovated while 17 grass and eight AstroTurf cricket nets are being installed as are new changing rooms and office facilities.
And, as part of a wider relationship with Abu Dhabi Sports Council, state-of-the-art 500-lux LED Musco floodlights have recently been installed on the two nursery ovals, allowing for evening matches and community sport.
As the sport continues to grow in popularity across the emirate, Zayed Cricket Academy is looking to sign-up more children to its programmes.
“Following the conclusion of such an exciting first test match here in Abu Dhabi, we’re hoping local youngsters have been inspired to not only try their hand at this sport but would also be interested in volunteering as ball boys and girls for the upcoming ODI’s and T20’s at Zayed Cricket Stadium,” explained Matt Boucher, Acting CEO, Abu Dhabi Cricket.
“We intend to position Abu Dhabi as a cricketing hub – with both world-class events and a junior programme designed to inspire the next generation of cricketing super-stars. We want to develop the sport’s ecosystem in Abu Dhabi, to engage our youth, to promote healthy lifestyles and ensure cricket is accessible to kids of all abilities, ages and backgrounds.
“We’ve also introduced a new online system to help parents select the optimal session for their families. My thanks go to Abu Dhabi Sports Council – its support for Abu Dhabi Cricket has been unwavering and we’re privileged to have them spearheading our new mission.”
The Zayed Cricket Academy has enjoyed significant local and international success, most recently its under-18 team claimed victory in the 2016/17 UAE National Academies League.
Academy players have also won scholarships to prestigious schools abroad and several players have been chosen to represent the UAE National Team. Boucher added: “The Academy hopes to build on this success to secure its position as the UAE’s premier youth cricket programme.”
Parents can register their children with the Academy at www.abudhabicricket.ae/academy.
Abu Dhabi Cricket will also play host to Pakistan and Sri Lanka for two ODIs on Monday October 16th and Wednesday October 18th as well as two Twenty20s on Thursday October 26th and Friday October 27th. For further information and for ticket sales please visit www.abudhabicricket.ae.
A promising young cricketer has turned down the opportunity to play in the UK in order to attend a selection trial in Kerala and enhance his chances of representing India one day.
Sharjah-based Shoun Roger, 14, was due to start his two-year scholarship to continue his education and develop his game at England’s Wellington School, Somerset in September, having received the offer in April
However, the all-rounder had a change of heart last month and instead of signing on the dotted line, will now remain in the UAE.
A call-up to the UAE national team is very much on his radar as well as his native country – India. To make that a reality, he will travel to India for the Under-16 Kerala Cricket Association District selection trials in November.
If he impresses in that, it could pave the way of playing for the Indian national team with the process also including Zonal and State trials. The trials are run under the BCCI, the governing body for India.
Roger, who won the Most Valuable Player in the Under-14 category of the ADIB National School League, where he skippered Our Own Zenith to glory in February’s final, had mixed emotions but feels he made the right decision.
“I’m not disappointed (to have not gone to England),” said Roger, who was part of the UAE Under-16 training camp over the summer.
“It was a great opportunity to play in England because it has a strong cricketing history. It’s something that I had to think hard but I have hopes of playing for the UAE and India, particularly and I feel the trials in Kerala is a perfect chance to make that happen.” It will be the second time he will be competing in the Kerala trials having attended the U-14s three years ago.
“It’s going to be hard especially as there will be older players in the trials,” he said. “But it will be a great experience for me. I will continue playing in the UAE and hopefully will get a chance to represent the country one day.”
His father Antony, added the decision was purely down to cricketing reasons, fearing his son’s dream could have been more difficult had he gone to England.
“We decided that if he went there, he will be there for two years and he would come back when he’s around 16 or 17,” he said. “The game is more advanced there but his chances of playing for India or the UAE would be even harder. We had to think hard because it was all about the stage of him beginning his career.”