The national team returned home from the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe on Saturday morning and despite not reaching the showpiece event in 2019, they could reflect on a memorable three weeks.
They managed to advance to the Super Six stage, while also retaining their ODI status until 2022. Brown’s side also managed to deny Zimbabwe a place in the World Cup with an historic win – their first over a Test nation.
After ODI status was sealed for another four years, ECB member and spokesperson Zayed Abbas said they are hopeful of pushing ahead with plans to award more players central contracts. In July 2016, the UAE announced 12 contracted players – eight on full-time and four on part-time deals.
Brown says he’s been impressed with the players’ efforts and, if funding permits, believes it would be another positive move to have more cricketers on contracts.
“We probably have at this moment of time, about a group of 22 players whom we can call upon,” said the 48-year-old. “We know that if we are going to sustain our form, we need to have a far better playing squad for the games that we are playing.
“We also need to have a competitive environment, which at this moment of time, is competitive but needs to be more competitive. It would be good if that’s the case but it all depends on funding.
“I would love there to be more contracts but it’s a balancing act between what we require and what we would like and what is completely viable. At this moment, we only have the number of contracts that we have and hopefully over time we can have more.”
One of the players on a central contract is batsman Adnan Mufti. The 33-year-old has become a key member of the squad since making his debut in December 2016.
And the Pakistan-born player saying he’s reaping the rewards of being a professional cricketer.
“It’s been very good for us,” he said. “We have been going through a good process. After working full day, it can be hard to then go to practice. But these contacts is very good for UAE cricket.
“You can see in the results that we have been producing. The victory over Zimbabwe has shown how far we have come.”
He added: “Working every day in training is a big plus as it helps develop your knowledge while also making sure you’re physically fit as well.”
Dougie Brown’s side will compete in the tournament alongside hosts Kuwait, Maldives, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia between April 20-27. It is the first qualifying stage for the showpiece event in Australia.
According to the Maldives Cricket Association website, the event will be played in a round-robin format with the top three sides joining Nepal, Singapore and Malaysia in the Asia Regional finals.
On paper, the UAE are favourites to claim one of the qualifying spots and skipper Rohan Mustafa believes they have enough quality to progress to the next stage.
“For us, it’s an important tournament event and one that I feel will have no problem qualifying for the next round,” said the 29-year-old all-rounder.
“There are some good teams there but it’s a chance for us to qualify for the next round of the World Twenty20.”
The UAE last reached the global competition in 2014 when they suffered a group stage exit after consecutive losses to Netherlands, Zimbabwe and Ireland.
But they will go into the tournament in Kuwait buoyed by their showing at the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe. Despite not qualifying for England, they secured ODI status until 2022, while also registering their first triumph over hosts Zimbabwe on Thursday – their first against a Test nation. They also put on spirited displays against Afghanistan and West Indies.
And head coach Brown believes his team will only get stronger, beginning in Kuwait after their performances in Zimbabwe.
“I could not have been more proud on the effort of the guys not just for the tournament but over the last 12 months,” said the 48-year-old.
“It’s just a reward for everything they have given towards that has seen them be in this position. Obviously, whoever has watched the game against Zimababwe, will be delighted that we got over the line but some of the games that we played that were not on television particularly against West Indies and Afghanistan, I thought we played exceptionally well.
“On paper, you would think they are ahead of us but we showed that we have an attitude that allowed us to compete at this level.”
The Herald, Zimbabwe’s most-prominent daily publication, published a piece on their back page on Friday morning criticising their national team’s exit.
“Out of respect for 15 million Zimbabweans around the world and 15,000 fans who packed Harare Sport Club to capacity, still being tormented by the dumping of the ‘Choking Chevrons’ from the World Cup from a rag-tag team of amateurs from the United Arab Emirates, we won’t show you any picture on this front page from that disaster but just this black background to mourn the day our cricket died, a slow and painful death,” it read.
The UAE, who turned professional in July 2016, put on a fine performance to win by three runs for their first victory against a Test nation. Zimbabwe needed to beat either the West Indies or the UAE to reach next year’s cricketing showpiece in England and Wales but were beaten by Brown’s men, while Afghanistan turned over Ireland on Friday to end their chances.
Brown responded back on Twitter prior to their departure on Friday night and after arriving in Dubai on Saturday morning, opened up on why he felt the newspaper was ‘grossly unfair’ to his team.
Thanks @HeraldZimbabwe... I quote... ‘rag tag team of amateurs’ @EmiratesCricket Nice use of language to describe us... Sorry you didn’t qualify for the WC but at least give us some credit for how we played! pic.twitter.com/vhNhZNgSid— Dougie Brown (@dougie1brown) March 23, 2018
“I think we have shown so many positive things over the course over the tournament,” said the 48-year-old. “We played a very good game and we have proved to many people that we can be a force to be reckoned with.
“The comment from the newspaper was clearly that they were reeling from the fact that they didn’t qualify for the World Cup. I can’t do anything about that.
“But to call us ‘a rag-tag team of amateurs’ was grossly unfair and anyone who has saw that match will actually justify that, we’re not that and we’re far better than that.
“Not only did we win the game but over the course of the match, we deserved to win it because we showed better skill, more willingless to win. It’s grossly unfair to brand us what they did and that was why I was vocal in what I said.”