UAE head coach Dougie Brown wants his players to focus on reaching the Asia Cup before they even think about the prospect of facing India or Pakistan.
The 15-man squad will fly out to Malaysia in the early hours of Sunday morning as they look to seal the only qualification berth for next month’s main event in the UAE.
Malaysia, Hong Kong, Nepal, Oman, and Singapore all stand in their way when the 50-over tournament begins from August 29. Whoever prevails in the final on September 6 can look forward to testing themselves against India and Pakistan in the group stage in Dubai.
Considering the tournament will be staged in the UAE, Brown says his team are fully aware it’s an opportunity to play in front of their home fans but warned they have to earn the right to mix with Asia’s elite.
“There are a number of very good teams in this qualifying tournament in Malaysia,” said Brown. “We know some of them and there are teams that we don’t know much about. We have done our homework and got an understanding of how they play their cricket.
Two very short weeks until #UAE #Cricket Men land in #KualaLumpur for the #ACC Asia Cup Qualifiers 2018.— UAE Cricket Official (@EmiratesCricket) August 13, 2018
& our lads have been putting in some rather serious work on their fitness in the lead up.@ICCAcademy @ANIBDXB @tykasports @Phizz #GoUAE #LetsDoThis! pic.twitter.com/cSoaBzyXUo
“While the players can dream about playing against India and Pakistan in Dubai – which would be everyone’s dream, we need to ensure we take stock of every situation that we intend in Malaysia. We cannot afford a slip-up there.
“We have to be playing the best cricket that we can. If we take our eye off, we’ll find it very difficult to qualify for the Asia Cup. We discussed the importance of every single game and ball we face. We want to keep them focused on what will be in front of them in Malaysia.”
With humid conditions expected in Malaysia, the squad have been sweating it outdoors during their training sessions at the ICC Academy over the last four weeks.
Brown said it was crucial that the players got used to training in a hot climate before they flew out.
“We know it’s going to be very hot and humid in Malaysia and given that, we have been outdoors as often as we could,” the 48-year-old added.
“We are in a very good state at the moment. The easy thing to do was to play indoors and we could have done that if we wanted to. But we know how important this tournament is and we don’t want to leave nothing to chance.
“It’s really important that they do acclimatise as we know there’s no escape from the weather.”
The pair were part of the Under-19 team that featured in the Asia Cup tournament last year and while it’s Bhatia’s first call-up to the senior side, Nawaz were part of the squad that played in April’s pre-Asian World Twenty20 qualifiers.
Abdul Shakoor, who last represented the national team in November 2015, has been recalled following impressive domestic displays.
Rohan Mustafa will captain the side in the 50-over tournament, which will take place between August 29 and September 6.
The UAE will compete against Malaysia, Hong Kong, Nepal, Oman and Singapore in their bid to secure their place in the 2018 Asia Cup, which will be played in the UAE in September.
Speaking on the squad selection, Waleed Bukhatir, Emirates Cricket Board member and chief selector said: “Securing our place to compete in the 2018 Asia Cup, which is being hosted on home-soil, is of the utmost importance. Our players and the coaching team have been exceptionally committed to their training throughout the summer, and we are confident they will put forward a winning performance and secure the remaining place in the Asia Cup.”
UAE squad: Rohan Mustafa (C), Ashfaq Ahmed, Chirag Suri, Rameez Shahzad, Muhammad Usman, Adnan Mufti, Shaiman Anwar, Ahmed Raza, Imran Haider, Muhammad Naveed, Amir Hayat, Abdul Shakhoor, Rahul Bhatia, Fahad Nawaz and Zahoor Khan
With UAE pacer Mohammad Naveed on the brink of signing for Nepal’s T20 Everest Premier League, it will be another box ticked off on his list of limited-overs competitions he’s played in.
The 31-year-old isn’t short of experience when it comes to T20 (and even T10) cricket. We look back at the other limited-over competitions he has played in so far.
2016 and 2017: Hong Kong T20 Blitz
The inaugural edition in 2016 saw Naveed selected for his first-ever overseas T20 tournament. Representing Hung Hom JD Jaguars, he only played twice with just one wicket to his name. Despite that, he returned again for the second edition 12 months later and came away with some cherished memories.
Playing for Hung Hom JD Jaguars again, Naveed shared the same dressing room as two-time World Twenty20 captain Darren Sammy. The West Indian was among the biggest names competing alongside ex-Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi and Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara. That didn’t stop him faring better with the ball, taking five wickets in total including one of former England international Ian Bell.
“He’s won the Ashes and was one of England’s best batsmen. It’s right up there among the best wickets of my career,” Naveed said at the time.
December 2017: T10 League, Sharjah
Naveed got a chance to showcase his skills in front of his home fans in the first-ever T10 tournament. He was one of nine current UAE internationals to be given an opportunity with the pacer snapped up by Bengal Tigers.
Just like the rest of the players, which included the likes of Sarfraz Ahmed, Mohammad Amir and Eoin Morgan, Naveed was stepping into unknown territory considering it was the first time 10-over cricket was played.
But he didn’t disappoint, taking three wickets in three matches including the prized one of Shahid Afridi.
June 2018: Global T20 Canada
Naveed had company when he flew to Canada as Ahmed Raza, Rohan Mustafa and Shaiman Anwar were the four UAE internationals to be drafted in the inaugural edition. The quartet nearly missed the start of the tournament due to visa issues but just hours after arriving, Naveed was on the field for his Toronto Nationals debut. He didn’t pick up a wicket that time and had to wait until his third game to claim the scalps of South Africa’s David Miller and West Indies’ Dwayne Bravo.