The 19-year-old flew out with the senior squad to Malaysia on Sunday morning after making the 15-man squad. The Emirates Cricket Board publicly announced their squad on Saturday but Bhatia, like the rest of the players learnt they made the cut three weeks’ ago.
The left-arm spinner had been training with the senior cricketers for two months over the summer and is delighted to have proved his potential to the selectors.
“I really wasn’t expecting to be named in the squad to be honest,” he said. “When I heard the news, I didn’t really express myself but later I was really happy.
“I had only been training with the guys for two months and thought it would be a great experience just to be close to the senior guys and pick up tips here and there. I didn’t really expect to go to Malaysia but it’s something that I am looking forward to.”
The UAE have more than a week to acclimatise to conditions ahead of their opening game against Singapore on August 29. They will also face Malaysia, Hong Kong, Nepal and Oman for a place to rub shoulders with Asia’s elite when the main showpiece event is held in the UAE next month.
On his last visit to Malaysia, Bhatia was lethal with the ball and was named best bowler in the Under-19 Asia Cup Qualifiers. He hopes to bank on that experience with the senior side but even if he doesn’t play, he insists it will be a great learning curve.
“Of course my aim is to make a mark but I know how difficult it will be to make the team,” he added. “But having said that, any time I spend with the older guys in training will be valuable for me in developing as a player.”
UAE’s Rameez Shahzad wants to pursue a coaching career once he retires from cricket after completing a course in England.
The batsman attained the ECB’s Level 2 coaching qualification after attending the course in the summer where he played club cricket for Philadelphia in the Durham Cricket League.
Having passed the required tests, Shahzad is keen to complete the Level 3 course in the future and pass on his experience in a coaching capacity when he finally lays down the bat.
“Once I have finished with cricket, I’ve decided that I want to do coaching,” the 30-year-old said. “That is why I wanted to do this course and hopefully next year I can return and do my Level 3 course.”
Shahzad’s father Altaf, a member of the UAE team that featured at the 1996 World Cup, is now coaching youngsters in the country.
And Shahzad is keen to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“My father coaches at his academy and would love to help him. At the same time, I also want to be part of a top coaching team with professional set-up. It’s something I want to aim for.”
Shahzad managed to complete the course in between matches for Philadelphia. He said it was an eye-opener on what was needed when it came to coaching.
“The course was really good because it taught you the basics but I know it will be harder to get the Level 3 qualification,” he added.
“I had to attend four or five days and then work with youngsters for two months before returning to complete the tests. It was really exciting to do this.”
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.”