UAE Under-16 skipper Aryan Lakra believes the eight-wicket victory over Oman on Monday will give them a lot of confidence going into the rest of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Western Region tournament.
The fixture had been delayed due to rain at Ajman’s Eden Gardens, forcing the game to be reduced from 35 to 23 overs. However, that did not stop the hosts comfortably reach their 102-run target in the 18th over with Ansh Tandon scoring a fluent 49.
The batsmen would have fancied their chances of reaching the target after Chathiya Dashan (1-7), Lakra (1-22) and Yuvraj Jaisingh (1-16) were among the wicket-takers for the UAE as Oman struggled to reach 101-5.
The UAE will again be on the field when they play Maldives at Sharjah on Tuesday. Another win will clinch top spot and a place in the semi-finals and Lakra believes the team will be raring to go after beating Oman.
“It feels great to win the first game and it will give us good momentum going into the upcoming games and hopefully we can carry this through for the rest of the tournament,” said the 14-year-old all-rounder.
“This game wasn’t much of a competition. Oman put on a good show but we were more stronger in all departments. The most important thing is that we won and we want to do it again against Maldives and book our place in the semi-finals.”
Despite the margin of the victory, Lakra says there’s still room for improvement if they want to go all the way and lift the trophy on Friday.
“I’m really happy with how we bowled but there are still some things that we want to improve on in the next game and try and get better.”
UAE coach Qasim Ali has challenged his team to go all the way and lift the Asian Cricket Council’s Western Region Under-16 title as the hosts open their campaign against Oman on Monday.
The UAE are one of six teams (Oman, Maldives, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait) vying for the trophy in a competition that has already been postponed twice.
The 35-over tournament had been scheduled to be held in Kuwait in September but political unrest forced the ACC to move it to Thailand in November.
The event was later postponed with the ACC switching the venue to Sharjah and Ajman last month.
As hosts, the team, which will be led by all-rounder Aryan Lakra, will be familiar with home conditions and Ali is confident his players will rise to the occasion although he remains wary of the nations that stand in front of them.
“There’s obviously a lot of expectation to go and win it on home turf,” said Ali, who is also head of cricket development at ICC Academy.
“Whatever matches or tournament the UAE enters, they always want to win and play some competitive cricket. The fact that it’s in Sharjah will give a little bit of advantage but it all comes down to what happens on the day.
“As it’s such a short tournament anything can happen. We’re confident of our chances. We have to face Oman and the Maldives. Oman national team is a highly competitively side and I’m guessing the juniors will be very similar.
“The Maldives are an unknown quantity and we can’t take them lightly.”
Despite beginning their preparations with an intense training camp in June, Ali says the postponement will only have a positive impact on his side.
“It’s an advantage because you get more time to work with them,” he said. “To be honest, nobody really knows anything what to expect from the other sides in the Under-16 tournament.
“From our point of view, the lads have gone back to their own academies and have performed well in their domestic games and we are physically and mentally ready for this tournament.”
Innovation is the name of the game and the UAE witnessed the birth of a potentially game-changing format this weekend.
The T10 League made its debut in Sharjah with some big international and recently retired stars fighting it out over 10 overs in 90-minute encounters, hoping to squeeze in even more action than a Twenty20 game and hopefully create a new product for cricket consumers to enjoy.
It is a great idea. As has been the case with most cricket innovations, the idea here is to keep the game moving ahead while attracting a more diverse group of fans.
Taking cricket to new markets has been the ultimate target for administrators for a long time with very little success. The United States is one territory cricket is desperate to find a foothold in while the Olympics remains a bridge too far as the Indian board refuses to warm up to the idea of competing at a truly global stage.
The arrival of T10, therefore, adds another intriguing element to the mix. Matches that last 90 minutes can be sold to any sporting fan and, even among existing cricket fans, the new format offers even more bang for the buck.
However, the inaugural T10 League edition didn’t go off as smoothly as expected. Firstly, a stream of negative news emanated from Pakistan a few weeks before the league started. There were serious concerns about how much the league will impact Pakistan’s highly-valuable T20 product – PSL – as the T10 League has the complete backing of the Pakistan board and features its contracted players. Also, PSL franchises feared the dilution of the UAE market with a similar league featuring star names around winter time.
Then, before the start of the league on December 14, a slew of star names like Kumar Sangakkara, Rangana Herath, Sunil Narine and Mustafizur Rahman became unavailable for selection.
Also, the schedule itself was hectic to say the least. Four matches were held each day on Friday and Saturday, with the final match of the night finishing well beyond midnight in Sharjah. If the teams are playing so late into the night, the league can’t possibly reach the greatest number of eyeballs.
The crowd response, however, was good with around 12,000 remaining at the stadium on a rainy Saturday evening.
The format has everything going for it. It is fast, has big names, enjoys the support of cricket boards and the ICC, and can be taken to new markets while retaining the basic structure of the sport.
However, the first edition could have definitely done without the negative publicity from the main country that was backing it. How it placates aggrieved parties will decide the structure and scale of the tournament next year.
Also, the league somehow didn’t launch with the same amount of fanfare that T20 and pink ball cricket had in order to make a blockbuster debut. However, that’s something a bolder marketing strategy can easily solve.
The plan is to stage matches in the UAE for the next 10 years and possibly take the carnival to Pakistan and maybe even the US.
While it’s too early to talk about expansion plans, T10 looks like a revolutionary addition.
Now it’s about sustaining the model and ensuring it doesn’t fizzle out like another UAE-based short format tournament – the Masters Champions League – that folded last year without paying many players their dues.
Here’s hoping for the best.