Rohan Mustafa and four other players to watch at the ICC World Cricket League Division Two

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The UAE, Nepal, Canada, Oman, Kenya and hosts Namibia all begin their World Cricket League Division Two campaigns on Thursday with the top two reaching next month’s 2019 World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe.

Here we look at five players to look out for:

NEPAL

Sandeep Lamichhane

Age: 17

Position: Leg-spinner

Mosman v Western Suburbs

Stole the headlines last month when he became the first Nepalese cricketer to be snapped up in the IPL when bought by Delhi Daredevils for $31,000. It will be interesting to see how he fares against the Associate sides but comes into the tournament on the back of a solid spell, taking nine wickets in seven matches in Nepal’s T20 competition – the Everest Premier League. With 12 wickets in WCL Division to his name, expect him to add to that tally.

OMAN

Zeeshan Maqsood

Age: 30

Position: All-rounder

One of the most experienced players in the Omani squad. The 30-year-old impressed for his national team at the Desert T20 last year, scoring 99 runs and taking two wickets. Runs have been hard to come by but his 71-run effort in Afghanistan’s Shpageeza Cricket League showcases his immense qualities.

NAMIBIA

Gerhard Erasmus

Age: 22

Position: Batsman

Desert T20 Challenge

Only finished four runs behind Sarel Berger in the run charts of Division One with 304 runs, but at such a young age has plenty of promise. UAE will be fully aware of the damage he can do with the bat with his match-winning 77 last September, while adding consecutive half-centuries against Netherlands in Dubai.

CANADA 

Nitish Kumar

Age: 23

Position: Batsman/right-arm offbreaker

Canada's sixteen year-old batsman Nitish

Since making his debut in 2009 as a 14-year-old, the only way has been up for the Toronto native. After leading the U-15 and U-19 squads, he has now been handed the armband of his national team. Playing for MCC University in England last year, he showed his batting abilities with two fifties in four matches. Was disappointing against USA in September with just 37 but will be eager to deliver from the front.

UAE

Rohan Mustafa

Age: 29

Position: All-rounder

UAE vs Namibia 24

Rose the occasion since being appointed captain one year ago. It isn’t just with the bat he can do the damage as evidenced by his match-winning 109-runs against Papua New Guinea in the third ODI but also with the ball with 15 wickets in his last nine ODI matches. Said it would be ‘special’ to qualify for the tournament and will be aiming to lead from the front to ensure that happens.

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UAE captain Rohan Mustafa says reaching World Cup Qualifiers 'would be pretty special'

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Rohan Mustafa says it would be a “pretty special feeling” as captain if he can help the UAE reach the 2019 World Cup Qualifiers.

The UAE open their World Cricket League Division Two campaign against Kenya on Thursday, knowing if they can finish in the top two of the six-team tournament, they will advance to next month’s main World Cup qualifying campaign.

Two-time World T20 champions West Indies and new Test nations Ireland and Afghanistan are just three of the sides that will be competing for the two spots in Zimbabwe.

Mustafa insists it would be a remarkable feat if the UAE can still be in the mix for qualification for the 2019 showpiece event in England and Wales.

“Yes of course it would be a pretty special feeling,” said the 29-year-old all-rounder. “To be honest we are all thinking of wanting to qualify for the 2019 World Cup but we must do well in these matches in Namibia.

“We will treat each game at a time as we don’t want to look too far ahead. But if we can claim one of the two spots, it won’t be just special for me but for the whole team. You can say it’s the most important tournament that we’ll be playing for a long time.”

The UAE have been given a second and final opportunity to reach the Qualifiers after missing out on qualification in Division One.

In that competition, they finished third from bottom in the eight-team event, resulting in relegation to the competition’s second tier.  Joining them in this week’s event in Namibia are the hosts, Nepal and Kenya – who were all relegated as well as Oman and Canada who were promoted from Division Three.

The UAE will be one of the favourites to claim one of the two berths following their resurgence under Mustafa’s captaincy and head coach Dougie Brown in the last 12 months.

But Mustafa insists they have to deliver when it really matters, saying their previous results are now history.

“Cricket is developing very fast and all the teams that are competing are very balanced,” he said. “I think Namibia and Oman will be especially tough as they have been playing very good cricket for the last couple of months. I believe Namibia will be taking advantage of their home conditions while Oman will be well prepared.”

He added: “Our opening match against Kenya will be the most important game. If we win that it can give us a lot of confidence for the rest of the tournament. If we lose that game it will be very difficult for us. It’s an important match so let’s hope for the best.”

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Head coach Dougie Brown wants UAE to treat all Division Two games as a 'final'

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UAE coach: Dougie Brown.

UAE head coach Dougie Brown has told his players to treat every match of their World Cricket League Division Two as a “final”, saying there’s no room for error if they want to advance to next month’s 2019 World Cup Qualifiers.

The UAE open their campaign against Kenya at the Namibian capital of Windhoek on Thursday as they bid to seal one of the two spots and join the likes of West Indies, Afghanistan and Ireland in the final qualifying round in Zimbabwe.

Canada, Nepal, Namibia and Kenya all stand in the UAE’s way over the next 10 days and Brown insists his players need to hit the ground running if they want to achieve their goal.

“That’s exactly what we’re going to do (treat each game as a final),” said Brown. “We know we can’t afford to slip up in a half an hour period or getting a couple of overs wrong.

“Every game will be of intense pressure and we have to play each game as if it’s a final. That’s what we as a coaching team is trying to make the players understand when we were here in Pretoria. Every single ball is an important one and it’s the same in fielding. The game can instantly change within a blink of an eye.

“We’re getting up to that where every ball is equally important and we can’t afford to have eight players focused and three are not – it has to be done as a team. We know if we can get that right, we can be a handful for anyone as some players are playing some really good cricket. We go into the tournament confident but we are only as good as our attitude.”

The UAE go into the tournament on the back of a morale-boosting victory over Scotland in the home tri-series which involved Ireland, as well as a series of practice matches against Afghanistan.

Among those to impress is No.4 batsman Rameez Shahzad, who struck two fifties and a century, while Shaiman Anwar scored a ton against Afghanistan.

Brown is pleased his batsmen are beginning to click at a crucial period but stressed it’s important they continue to put in consistent performances in Namibia.

“We know our batters are performing well. What we need to do is how to play a tournament because it’s different to a one-off game where you can have a good performance,” said the 48-year-old.

“We’re trying to adapt the players to playing tournament cricket. What we are keen to show is that we can play a different game and we have players who can play exceptionally well. This will be a huge challenge. If we play the tournament well, it fits up nicely for Zimbabwe. If we don’t do it well, then we don’t know what exactly will happen. We don’t want to be playing Division Two or Division Three cricket. It’s incredibly important for all of us to get this tournament spot on. Everything I’ve seen shows that we’re tracking on really well.”

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