UAE head coach Dougie Brown to put friendships aside for Scotland Super Sixes clash

Denzil Pinto 14/03/2018
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Focused on UAE: Dougie Brown

UAE head coach Dougie Brown will put friendship aside as his team take on Scotland in their first Super Sixes clash at the World Cup Qualifier.

Brown represented Scotland between 2005 and 2007 during his playing days, and was a member of the squad that played in the World Cup in the Caribbean.

The 48-year-old says he has happy memories of his international career but will be focused solely on delivering a positive result for the UAE at Queen Sports Club in Zimbabwe on Thursday.

“Absolutely,” he said. “My team is the UAE and definitely not Scotland. We wish them all the very best but my primary focus is where our cricket is at and how many games we can win at this stage of the competition.

“They were some of the most memorable parts of my career,” he added. “We had some great times. We qualified through the ICC Trophy for the 2007 World Cup. We had a very successful time through the campaign until the World Cup in the Caribbean, it was a very experienced side who could compete against any side on their day.”

The UAE face a stern task of reaching their second-successive World Cup. With points gained against fellow qualifiers, his side start the Super Sixes with zero points.

But he can be encouraged they can get their first points on board against a side who they had already beaten in Dubai earlier this year.

“Realistically, World Cup qualification will be really difficult but we will keep a very open mind of where our cricket is at and try and see what we can achieve over the course of these three matches,” he said.

“Scotland have a never-say-die attitude, very much like the Irish. From our perspective, we really have to get into the game if we can early in the game, and stay in the game and make it really difficult for Scotland to show their character and attitude.”

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Emirates Cricket Board plan to offer more central contracts after UAE retain ODI status

Denzil Pinto 13/03/2018
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Good times: Ahmed Raza (l), Mohammad Naveed (c) and Ghullam Shabbir are contracted players

A top Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) official has revealed the board plans to offer more central contacts to players after the UAE retained their ODI status.

Their national side reached the Super Six stage of the World Cup Qualifier despite losing by 226 runs to Ireland in their group game on Monday. But they still finished within the top three Associate sides between themselves, Scotland, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea and Nepal to maintain their ODI status.

The UAE’s success in the last 12 months where they have registered 50-over series wins against Netherlands, Oman and Papua New Guinea is largely down to having a team of professional cricketers. In July 2016, the ECB handed out contracts to 12 players for the first time in history.

With ODI status now sealed until 2022, the ECB will receive funding from the ICC. And Zayed Abbas, board member of ECB, says the country’s governing body will look to add to that number in the future.

“Of course, definitely,” he said. “There will be more players getting contracts. You just have to have the right players to offer them contracts. There are plenty of players who are willing to get a contract and we’re looking for the best of the best in the UAE.

“We don’t have a certain time frame (to hand contracts). You have to have the right player. It’s been a good year, we had good sponsorship deals and with this achievement, it’s really positive.”

The UAE clinched their ODI status with victories over Netherlands and Papua New Guinea in the World Cup Qualifier. Although their chances of reaching their third World Cup are slim with just the top two teams from the Super Six stage going through, Abbas believes retaining ODI status will help develop the game.

“It was our main objective to get ODI status,” he said. “We have four years to perform and test our capabilities. This is a great achievement and we were pretty confident and were able to do that. The team was performing professionally in the last three or four months and the results have been positive. With another four years to go, we will definitely show a different side to UAE cricket.”

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Cricket in UAE can develop further with ODI status secured

Denzil Pinto 13/03/2018
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All smiles: UAE national cricket team

Back in November, just prior to their five-match 50-over series against Zimbabwe ‘A’ in Dubai, UAE head coach Dougie Brown stated his team were entering their ‘most crucial’ season in history.

His words came on the back of a 2017 in which the UAE started off struggling for form before finding a couple of extra gears to secure 19 victories in 24 matches across formats.

Netherlands, Papua New Guinea and Oman were all beaten leading up to the on-going ICC World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe.

It’s easy to see why Brown labeled this season as their most important ever. Not only could they reach their third World Cup but more significantly retain their ODI status. It’s something that they had achieved four years ago when they booked their ticket in the same qualifying tournament to the 2015 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia. But they had to battle to keep their place.

Fast forward to today and despite their 226-run defeat to Ireland in their final World Cup Qualifier group game on Monday, the UAE cricketers woke up on Tuesday knowing that their dreams (although slim) of playing with the big boys is alive with a World Cup Qualifier Super Six qualification. But more importantly, they know they will still be representing an ODI nation until 2022.

Retaining their status has been nothing short than a rollercoaster ride. They have had to do it the hard way. Following their relegation from the World Cricket League Championship in which they lost nine of their 13 matches during the 2015-17 edition, they were given another opportunity to keep their ODI status with February’s World Cricket League Division Two in Namibia.

On paper, they were the favourites but after two defeats, the UAE were on the verge of missing out on reaching the World Cup Qualifier and thereby losing their ODI status. But when the pressure was on, they delivered to get the two wins over Namibia and Oman before ending the tournament as champions.

Losing their ODI status would have dealt a big blow to the UAE and their cricket development. For the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), it’s a lot more than being just being an ODI member, it is the funding from the International Cricket Council (ICC) that comes with it. You only have to look at the previous four years to get an idea of how crucial the ICC’s help is to cricket in the UAE.

When they qualified for the 2015 World Cup, the UAE side was just a bunch of part-time cricketers who would train in the evenings after their day jobs. Now that’s no longer the case. In July 2016, the ECB announced their first-ever central contracts with 12 players selected on full-time and part-time basis.

Players can now call themselves professional cricketers and just like any other sport, train regularly five days a week under the guidance of UAE coaching staff. That number is set to increase with ECB board member Zayed Abbas confirming there will be new additions to their roster following their latest achievement. Having more contracted players will only help the national team as healthy competition will help coach Brown create a competitive unit.

As well as linking up with the ICC Academy High Performance Programme, where players have access to world-class facilities, the ECB have taken a number of initiatives in developing the game outside the senior national team.

The Inter-emirate tournament has been a big success since it was launched in 2015. Used as a platform to identify new talent, the ECB have picked their Under-16 and U-19 teams from the annual competition where players from four Emirates – Ajman, Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi – go head-to-head every year.

It has taken time but the ECB are beginning to yield the rewards with their Under-19 side reaching the Asia Cup in October, while the U-16s reigned supreme in the Asian Cricket Council’s Western Region tournament in January. There are plans to expand the tournament with ladies and men’s events, allowing for domestic players to get noticed by the ECB selectors.

The ECB are definitely going in the right direction in developing the game across the nation and the ICC funding will go a long way in achieving those objectives.

Greater tests await for the senior team over the next four years but for now, it’s time to laud Brown and his team for delivering another special result for UAE cricket.

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