Ahmed Raza will put friendship aside for a few hours when he faces his UAE team-mates in the Global T20 Canada on Saturday evening.
Raza and UAE star Shaiman Anwar, who are part of the Edmonton Royals’ squad, will come up against compatriots Rohan Mustafa and Mohammad Naveed in their game against Toronto Nationals.
Raza, 29, is no stranger to facing his international team-mates after playing against them in domestic games in the UAE. But with a bigger stage, an array of world-class internationals and a trophy up for grabs, Raza knows it will be a lot different to what their previous encounters used to be.
“It will be exciting to play against them, that’s for sure,” the spinner said. “We have played each other in the Inter-Emirates tournament and always played against each other in different events in the UAE. With us knowing how each other work, it could work in our favour and the same for them.
“It would be a different experience to what we are used to. It’s a chance to be spilling the beans to my team-mates about Naveed and Rohan’s skills but overall it will be a good experience and an exciting one.”
The UAE quartet faced a race to actually be in time for the start of the tournament after their visas were still being processed.
After more than a week, Raza, Naveed and Mustafa were finally issued their visa on Wednesday afternoon and later boarded a flight from Dubai to Toronto later that evening. Anwar flew to Canada the following day on Thursday.
Raza admitted it was a ‘stressful’ couple of days waiting to find out if their visas would be issued, but is happy not to miss any games at all in North America.
“Obviously it is a very big relief as it’s been a stressful week for all of us here,” he said. “Luckily, everything got done just in time so we are ready to depart for Canada.”
For Naveed, just hours after making the long 14-hour flight, the pacer shrugged off the jet lag and was part of Toronto’s starting 11 which beat Vancouver Knights by six wickets.
The 31-year-old was far from his best with figures of 0-60 but former Australian skipper Steve Smith’s 61 and Anton Devcich’s 92 saw them win with four balls to spare.
The UAE women’s team left for Amsterdam on Thursday for their participation at the World Twenty20 Global Qualifier.
Led by captain Humaira Tasneem, the 14-person squad departed Dubai airport in the afternoon a week early before they open their campaign against hosts Netherlands on July 7.
As well as the Dutch, they have been drawn alongside newly-crowned Asian champions Bangladesh and Papua New Guinea with the tournament also featuring Scotland, Ireland, Thailand and Uganda.
Only two teams will reach the World Twenty20 in the West Indies later this year. For the UAE, it will be the second-ever ICC tournament after they booked their Netherlands berth through the Asia Qualifiers back in November.
Before they take on the Dutch, they will play a warm-up game against Uganda on July 5.
UAE squad: Humaira Tasneem (Captain); Chamani Senevirathne; Chaya Mughal; Esha Oza; Heena Hotchandani; Ishni Senavirathna; Judit Cleetus (Wicketkeeper); Kavisha Kumari; Namita Dsouza; Neha Sharma; Nisha Ali; Roopa Nagaraj; Subha Srinivasan and Udeni Kuruppuarachchi. Sockalingam Vairamoorthy (coach)
Naveed, 31, will line up alongside West Indies’ World Twenty20-winning captain Darren Sammy and ex-Australia captain Steve Smith for Toronto Nationals in the inaugural competition, which begins on Thursday, after being one of four UAE players to be selected through the draft earlier this month.
He joins UAE skipper Rohan Mustafa at Toronto while Shaiman Anwar and Ahmed Raza are part of the Edmonton Royals’ squad.
The tournament has attracted some of the biggest names in cricket, including Chris Gayle, Smith and Warner, while the bowling talent is equally impressive with Tim Southee, Lasith Malinga, Sunil Narine and Sandeep Lamichhane all on the list.
But despite strong competition in the bowling department, Naveed, who has taken 36 wickets in 27 T20 matches, is dreaming of claiming the personal accolade.
“The target that I want to achieve is to win the best bowler award in the tournament,” said Naveed, who will depart for Canada on Monday. “Today that is what I want. Of course it will be very difficult but I have great confidence that I can do well in Canada over a series of matches.”
Naveed has established himself as one of the best bowlers in Associate cricket with Shahid Afridi and Gayle two of his highest-profile victims in the last six months.
With both playing in the same tournament, there’s every chance he could replicate that feat but the pacer wants to add Warner to his list.
“I have got the wicket of Shahid Afridi and Chris Gayle before so my target now is to get David Warner,” he said. “He is a fantastic players and he is one of the best batsmen in the world. He’s a very aggressive player and those type of batsmen I enjoy taking wickets.”
It will be Warner’s first appearance since the ball-tampering scandal that rocked the sport during the third Test between South Africa and Australia in March. He was subsequently stripped of his vice-captaincy role and given a 12-month ban along with Smith in international and state cricket.
But despite the punishment, Naveed insists he will have no issue shaking the hand of Warner when the teams meet in Canada.
The most consistent performer of @EmiratesCricket; @iamnaveedUae holds the spot of the top 10th bowler in @ICC rankings and he can prove to be a crucial bowler in @GT20Canada .He is selected in @darensammy88's team #TorontoNationals#DealMakers#TeamICA pic.twitter.com/nUgKBwPq0n— ICA (@ICAssociation) June 5, 2018
“For me, it’s no issue because he’s one of the best batsmen. He did a mistake and he’s accepted that. Now he is moving on from that chapter,” he said.
When Naveed does join his team-mates, he will be reunited with Sammy for the third time in two years. The two played at the Hong Kong T20 Blitz with Sammy praising the UAE star and they were later team-mates at the T10 League in December for Bengal Tigers.
Naveed says he can’t wait to link up with Sammy again this week. “I have been in regular contact with Darren Sammy since that tournament and we message all the time. He has always said that he will do his best to get me a deal with one of the teams and I’m very happy to be on the same team”