Young pacer Yodhin Punja, who last featured for the UAE two years ago, will fly to Dubai and train with the senior national team over the summer in his bid of resurrecting his international career.
Punja, 19, made his senior debut in the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup defeat to Hong Kong in November 2015, but the last of his three appearances came against Scotland in August 2016.
In that summer, he moved to England after being awarded a cricket scholarship at Claremont High School, but since that move Punja has only featured for the Under-19 squad with his last appearance coming in October 2016.
Due to his age, he’s ineligible to play for the youth team again and despite being based more than 3,000 miles away in England, Punja is keen to add to his senior caps.
He will fly to the UAE next month where he will train daily with the senior players from the middle of July until September after being in contact with head coach Dougie Brown.
“Dougie called me about two months ago and we had a conversation on the possibility of playing for the UAE and that was a big positive for me,” said Punja, who became the youngest UAE international, aged 16, to play first-class and ODI cricket.
“I have been in touch with them over the past three months about my progress and am looking forward to going back and getting back into the whole setup,” added the pacer, who has played club cricket in England.
Although it will be just training, Punja wants to use this opportunity to send another reminder of his potential and hopefully earn a recall to the senior team.
“To hear from Dougie Brown, who is the head coach is very encouraging and gives me hope of the possibility of me of playing for the UAE one day even though I’m based in the UK,” he added.
“This for me is an opportunity for the players and coaches to say ‘wow we could really do with someone like this in our team’. That is what I’m trying to get out of them. I have been working really hard and it’s been a long time since people in the UAE have seen me bowl. I just want to make sure they see the improvement I’ve made and impressed with it. For me, I want it to be a good development phase for me.”
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)