UAE's Natasha Michael 'heartbroken' to miss out on World Twenty20 Qualifier due to injury

Denzil Pinto 19/05/2018
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Injured: Natasha Michael

Natasha Michael says it’s ‘heartbreaking’ that she will not be able to play a part in the UAE’s attempts to qualify for the 2018 Women’s World Twenty20 due to a back injury.

Michael, 23, was left out of the 14-person squad on Thursday that will compete in the Global Qualifier tournament in Netherlands in July with the all-rounder deciding not to risk inflicting more pain on a long-term injury.

She first suffered the injury on her back during the UAE’s participation in the international Women’s Tournament back in December 2016 and although she was part of the squad in November’s Asia Qualifiers that booked their place in July’s tournament, the struggles continued with Michael playing her last game in December.

While she has not given herself a timeframe on her return, Michael insists it was a difficult decision to temporarily stop playing cricket.

“The injury happened during the UAE international Women’s Cup and my spikes got caught in the ground and I fell on the floor and it started off from there,” said Michael, who became the first-ever UAE captain aged 14 in 2007.

“It has been a recurring thing and has been coming on and off. In Thailand, it was fine but there was slight pain here and there. I started strengthening and did all kinds of physio but I’m just not 100 per cent. If I keep playing, it’s going to keep on coming back so I had to take a difficult decision on just being fully fit. It could be a lifetime thing if I don’t look after it now.”

She added: “It’s heartbreaking. It’s the biggest tournament that UAE will get for a while unless the girls prove everyone wrong and do well. This is one benchmark that we have been dreaming of for the past 10 years. It is a bit disheartening but I’m happy with the squad that is going and hopefully they can go on in the next stage.

“I don’t think it’s fair to be in the squad even though I have a history in the team. Someone who is fit, deserves to be there. Once I’m fully fit, I will come back to it.”

The UAE have been drawn alongside Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea and Netherlands in the eight-team tournament in July with two qualifying spots available for the showpiece event in West Indies in November.

With such an important event, Michael hopes the Emirates Cricket Board will appoint a physio for the tournament that can assist the players.

“Unfortunately we don’t have a physio provided and that’s another problem,” she said. “I hope the girls get a physio this time as it’s a very big tournament and that is one issue that needs to be addressed.”

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UAE coach Murali Sockalingam says qualifying for Women's World T20 is only target that have

Denzil Pinto 18/05/2018
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Next stop: Netherlands. The UAE will be captained by Humaira Tasneem (c)

UAE head coach Murali Sockalingam insists reaching the Women’s World Twenty20 is the only target they have in mind after the squad was announced for the qualifying tournament later this year.

The Emirates Cricket Board revealed the 14-person squad on Thursday for the World T20 Qualifier in Netherlands that will be held between July 3 to 14.

Humaira Tasneem will captain the side with former Sri Lankan international Chamani Seneviratne among four new faces called up that did not feature at the Asian Qualifiers in November.

The UAE have a tough task of claiming the two automatic spots for the showpiece event in West Indies with Bangladesh, Ireland, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, Thailand and Uganda also competing.

However, Sockalingam believes there is enough balance in the squad that can cause problems for the opposition.

“UAE cricket continues to grow and the players have also worked very hard on their performances by playing a lot of domestic cricket,” he said, whose side has been drawn alongside Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea and Netherlands.

“Most of the players have started playing with the boys team as well, so they are getting the experience which is important.

“I’m happy with the squad we have. There is a blend of experience and youth with strong quality and we have a couple of weeks to fine tune our skills. Hopefully we can achieve what we want to achieve and that is to qualify for the World Cup. Only two teams qualify and that is what our target should be.”

The squad is bolstered with the addition of Seneviratne. The 39-year-old brings an array of experience having played one Test, 80 ODIs and 32 T20Is with her last appearance coming in November 2013.

She now works as a coach at Abu Dhabi Cricket and Sockalingam insists having Seneviratne is a big boost for UAE cricket.

“She brings big time experience to the team,” he said. “She has played a Test, ODIs and T20s and brings a lot of knowledge that is very important for us. The youngsters are learning a lot from her. It’s fantastic to have her in the squad and great addition to us.”

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UAE batsman Rameez Shahzad to play club cricket in England

Denzil Pinto 13/05/2018
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UK stint: Rameez Shahzad

Rameez Shahzad has flown to England to play club cricket this summer ahead of the UAE’s participation at the Asia Cup Qualifiers later this year.

The 30-year-old batsman has put pen to paper on a short-team deal with Philadelphia, who play in the Durham Cricket League after being recommended by Durham’s director of cricket, Geoff Cook.

Shahzad is no stranger to English conditions. He spent time in the UK earlier in his career after travelling to the north-east of the country for his studies. He had played for Sunderland and South Shields in the Premier League.

His time away in the UK meant he had to wait to be eligible again to qualify as a resident as per the ICC rules after making his international debut for the UAE way back in 2005. He subsequently made his comeback during the Scotland tour in 2016.

Since then, Shahzad has been an integral member of the UAE side and is one of the contracted players on the Emirates Cricket Board’s books.

After a busy four months in 2018 that saw the national team compete in the Division Two World Cricket League as well as the World Cup Qualifiers, the UAE’s next assignment is September’s Asia Cup Qualifiers.

The UAE will host the main event later that month and Shahzad will use the England as vital preparation for that tournament.

“We don’t have anything until August so I thought that I might as well go to England and play cricket,” he said. “The conditions in the UK are a lot different than what it is in the UAE. But I think more importantly for me, it will be a great learning experience because I will learn more as a player. Playing club cricket and then ODI cricket, it will be easier for me.”

He looks set to make his debut this weekend and it’s a challenge that he’s looking forward to.

“I’m looking forward to it for sure,” he said. “The aim for me is to get as many runs as possible for them. It’s a very competitive league and they are looking to get promoted into the Premier League. My aim is to do really well and get them promoted.”

As well as enhancing his knowledge and skills, he also hopes his international team-mates can follow in his footsteps and be given a chance to play in England.

“If I play well here, one of my aims would be for my team-mates to try and earn a contract. I know our UAE guys deserve it because we are really good but because we’re Associate members, we’re sometimes overlooked, so I hope that can change.”

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