Coach Murali Sockalingam is pleased with how the UAE played during Ramadan but stressed there’s still still a lot of work to do before they open their Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier campaign in Netherlands next month.
The national team tested themselves against boys’ Under-16 sides during the Holy month and despite not having all their players available, they pushed their opponents all the way but were unable to register a win.
During the same period, the side also played a touring team from Sri Lanka in a game organised by the Emirates Cricket Board. This time they fared much better, winning two of the four matches they played.
Reflecting back on the past month, Sockalingam insists the matches were a great learning curve to see where they stand ahead of their opening game against hosts Netherlands on July 7.
“It was a good way for the players to test themselves,” he said. “We have a squad where people are working and studying so it’s very difficult to get us altogether for a training camp. So match experience is the best way to get the team together. It was a good thing for the girls to get some experience.
“We gained a lot from these games. We wanted them to test their bowling and batting and just get as much confidence as they can before the tournament. I won’t say that we are there 100 per cent yet but there’s still areas to improve on.
“We have given the players and the team their own goals to work on we’ll see how it goes.”
So very excited for our #UAE #Women, who will be competing in the @ICC #Women's T20 GLOBAL Qualifiers in July.— UAE Cricket Official (@EmiratesCricket) May 17, 2018
Check out the squad 👉 https://t.co/BbZzQmHgMo#GirlsRock! #GoUAE @ANIBDXB @tykasports @ICCAcademy pic.twitter.com/Ull6moAt5g
The team will depart for Netherlands at the end of the month with three warm-up matches before they take on the hosts. Sockalingam is convinced by the time they face the Dutch the side will be ‘in a better position’.
“We will be playing three practice games there and that will be a good test for us. By the time we finish that, we’ll be in a much better position,” he added.
The UAE will be aiming to claim one of the two available berths for November’s showpiece in the West Indies.
Along with the Netherlands, they have been drawn alongside Asian champions Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea. The week-long event also features Scotland, Ireland, Uganda and Thailand.
One player who will not be featuring in Netherlands is former captain Natasha Michael. The all-rounder was left out of the squad as she steps up her recovery from a niggling back injury.
Current skipper Humaira Tasneem says it’s disappointing for Natasha to miss out but vowed to give their best.
“Obviously, it’s pretty upsetting to see that happen,” said Tasneem. “She’s been part of the team since day one when the UAE played their very first game in 2007. She was there for the qualifiers where we made history. It was pretty upsetting to hear that she won’t be competing but we want to do well in this tournament for her and the UAE who have always been supporting us.”
Humaira Tasneem believes Bangladesh’s shock T20 Asia Cup win will inspire the UAE that they can cause upsets of their own in next month’s Women’s World T20 Qualifier.
The UAE have been drawn alongside the newly-crowned Asian champions, hosts Netherlands and Papua New Guinea in the eight-team tournament with the top two qualifying November’s showpiece in the West Indies.
With Scotland, Ireland, Thailand and Uganda also featuring, the UAE face a tough task of advancing but they will be encouraged by Bangladesh’s performance in Malaysia last week.
The Tigers defied the odds to beat six-time defending champions India by three wickets in a thrilling last-ball finish to win their maiden title. It was the second victory over India after beating them in the group stage.
UAE captain Tasneem was following the tournament closely from Dubai and insists Bangladesh’s win proves that anything is possible when it comes to match day.
“We are all keeping an eye on how Bangladesh fared in the Asia Cup and it’s really good they won the tournament,” said the spinner.
“T20 is a game that on the day, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. So I think we can beat the likes of India and Australia if we go into the match with our plans and strategies. Every player has to give their ultimate best on that day. Bangladesh had a really good tournament over there and the UAE can have one too. Nobody has seen us play so we are ready to surprise everyone.”
The UAE have regularly tested themselves against Asian opposition with the Netherlands tournament their second ICC competition following their pre-qualifiers in November. It will be the first time they will face European nations and Tasneem believes the opposition needing to do their homework on her team could work in their favour.
“Teams will only have seen highlights on the internet about us and we have some new players that have come in,” she said. “We have experience and youngsters who will all put in a collective effort and give their best in the tournament.”
The UAE have been stepping up their preparations for the qualifiers which runs from July 7 to 14,
In preparation for the qualifiers, which runs from July 7 to 14, the UAE competed in Ramadan tournaments as well as a touring Sri Lanka team, which was organised by the Emirates Cricket Board.
Tasneem said that was a good opportunity to experiment with the squad as well as getting vital match practice.
“We needed these kind of matches before the tournament,” she said. “Other nations like Australia would have training camps but we don’t have that.
“The last couple of weeks have been really good and we used all the batters and bowlers and gave them a try so they can get some match practice ahead of the tournament. We can do as much practice in the nets but whatever we have learnt can only come through matches that we play.”
Ahmed Raza believes the Emirates Cricket Board’s (ECB) new franchise T20 league is the ‘best thing ever’ to happen for UAE cricket that will not only help the senior national members but also benefit the younger generation.
The ECB last week unveiled plans to launch their own five-team tournament that will be played over 22 days in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah in December and January.
With the cricketing bodies of England & Wales, Ireland, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, New Zealand and the West Indies showing their support, there will be a number of international and upcoming stars in each franchise.
The 16-man squad will feature six international players, two emerging cricketers from full member countries, three from Associate nations, two juniors and three UAE cricketers.
The news is by far the biggest in terms of ECB-run tournaments and UAE spinner Raza insists the announcement is a significant moment for UAE cricket.
“It’s the best thing ever,” he said. “Our facilities are used by the whole world and their cricketing organisations are arranging their own T20 leagues. This ECB tournament is great news and this is something that we now own.
“The segregation is so good because there will be emerging players who’ll be there, you’ll have Under-19 cricketers there as well. You’ll have local and other players from six full member nations and I think it’s the best thing which has happened for UAE cricket.”
Raza, who made his UAE debut 12 years ago as a 17-year-old, will be turning 30 this year in October and insists the unveiling of the tournament has come at the right time.
“I’m very happy because for us it has come at the right time as there are some players who are 30 or will be hitting that age this year in the national team,” he said.
“Looking at the players who are younger than us right now, then maybe three or four years down the line they will be playing their own T20 tournament. We didn’t have that as a kid but these guys will have it when they get there.
“We are experienced now and it’s the right time for UAE youngsters. There’s so much opportunity to play with developing players in the game.”