Head coach Aaqib Javed insists the UAE are now “moving in the right direction” and hailed the Emirates Cricket Board’s (ECB) new selection committee.
Following a series of interviews overseen by ECB chief David East, UAE’s high performance manager Will Kitchen and Javed, a newly formed panel was announced on Sunday as part of the team’s plans of establishing a more professional set-up.
Former captains Khurram Khan and Mohammad Tauqir, who were both interviewed, were named in the panel alongside ECB member Zayed Abbas and Sharjah Cricket Council vice-chairman and chief selector Waleed Bukhatir.
The four individuals will watch domestic games across the country and work closely with local cricket councils in identifying talent for future national squads.
Javed, who also sat on the board, had nothing but praise for the committee, saying Khurram’s and Tauqir’s experience will be vital.
“They are all young guys with new ideas,” said the 43-year-old. “They all are sports fans and that’s very encouraging.
“Waleed and Zayed bring a lot of experience and I feel with the addition of Khurram and Tauqir, who were the two best options (in the interview stage), and both being captains, they have good knowledge of the game. So it’s a good decision by the board.”
The pair has plenty of experience, playing 186 matches between them. And the fact they retired last year is a big plus, insists .
“There are several things that we want to do and are really confident that Khurram and Tauqir will bring something new to this selection process,” said the 1992 World Cup winner.
“They know UAE cricket inside out. They recently retired and know who the players are and who are the up and coming talent, so it’s all good.
“This is the same for any professional national team around the world. You will find three or four cricketers on a panel and they all understand the game so this is the first step moving forward.”
Javed also revealed there are plans to launch a ‘talent hunt’ programme across the country in their bid to spot players.
“Nowadays, if you want to play in the UAE national team, you would have had to have play in a ‘A’ Division tournament otherwise it’s really difficult to get into the UAE team,” he said. “It’s not ideal if you are living in remote areas of the country or playing in a ‘B’ or ‘C’ division side. There are plans to roll out the programme across the emirate and if there is talent, then we want to train them and develop them. We don’t want to waste any talent and want this to create a pathway to the national side.”
East confirmed the first ever central contracts should be in place by next month, giving the opportunity for Javed to work with full-time players.
The ex-Pakistani fast-bowler believes once that is introduced, the UAE will reap the rewards with the side now going through a rebuilding phase after two World Cup qualifications
“I would think after one year, the UAE will improve considerably because there are some very talented players who have played first-class cricket in India and Pakistan.
“They are close to meeting the qualification criteria and then they can play for the UAE so it’s very encouraging for the future,” he said.
“If we can be patient this year and work hard the UAE will make big progress. It’s a crucial time but we are definitely going in the right direction.”
Tariq Butt has been umpiring matches in the UAE for 36-years but his “passionate hobby” is now over after being forced to retire due to health reasons.
The 66-year-old suffered a heart attack in November shortly after officiating a game for Dubai Cricket Council and after surviving the scare, the Pakistani expat felt now was the best time to call it quits.
He has lost count of how many matches he has taken charge of but admits it he will miss umpiring “very deeply”.
“After speaking to my children, it was the right time to quit as my health is very important,” he said.
“Of course, I will miss umpiring as I’ve officiated so many games, perhaps even more than 350 in domestic cricket. I’ll miss it very deeply as cricket is a sport I truly love.”
An umpiring stint was certainly not planned but Butt, an aspiring fast bowler, took up the role after suffering a serious ankle injury in 1980. As well as being in charge of local games in the country, often not taking his annual leave until the 10-month season is finished in July, his talents and knowledge were recognised on the international stage.
His CV includes being named fourth umpire of the Test series between Pakistan and the West Indies in 2002 and officiating the Richie Richardson-led World XI versus UAE matches in 1994.
During the first leg of the 2014 Indian Premier League, he was asked to officiate in a practice game between Delhi Daredevils and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
It’s been a journey that has seen him meet some of the biggest stars in the sport, sharing moments with Pakistan legends Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar and Saeed Ajmal, as well as Virat Kohli and Kevin Pietersen.
“It was a big honour to meet these superstars,” said the former Pakistan first-class cricketer. “They are really humble guys. I got the opportunity to see Waqar and Shoaib when there were here in 2002.
“Seeing Saeed Ajmal in 2009 was a great honour and he told me he had heard about me from those in the Pakistan national team, so that was very pleasing. And Virat Kohli was such a pleasant guy as we shared a lot of jokes during Royal Challengers’ practice game.”
While he will cherish those experiences forever, the UAE’s most experienced umpire is signing off with no regrets.
“I can look back at my career very positively,” he said.
“All careers have to come to an end one day but I’m very pleased I had a umpiring career that has seen me achieve great things as well as meeting new people. I’m very fond of cricket and want to offer my knowledge in some form of capacity.”
The Emirates Cricket Board has announced the UAE squad to face the Netherlands in this month’s ICC Intercontinental Cup (I-Cup) and ICC World Cricket League Championship (WCLC).
Coach Aaqib Javed has made a raft of changes to the squad humbled by Hong Kong in both tournaments at the ICC Academy in November, with central contracts an added incentive to arrest the country’s woeful run of form.
The UAE are without a competitive victory since beating minnows Canada at their failed World Twenty20 qualifying campaign in July last year.
The players, however, go into the fixtures knowing that sound performances will put them in pole position to gain the first professional contracts in the country’s history.
Eight players have been dropped from the squad that played Hong Kong, only captain Ahmed Raza, Shaiman Anwar, Swapnil Patil, Laxman Sreekumar and Usman Mushtaq retaining their places.
There are recalls for left-arm spinner Manjula Guruge, Rohan Mustafa, Saqlain Haider and Amjad Javed, while Qais Farooq, Mohammad Naveed (knee), Nasir Aziz and Asif Iqbal all miss out.
“We only have a few bowling options,” Javed explained. “Last time, Guruge really struggled in four-day cricket because he wasn’t ready. Qadeer Ahmed is looking good and can bowl longer. We are going with spin
rather than fast bowlers as the conditions for fast bowlers are tough.
“The experience (of the players recalled) will play a big part. It’s the best option and the best way to go forward because there’s not much domestic cricket being played, so you can’t bring in new players.
“We can only go on previous performances and these are the best available options.”
Meanwhile, the trio of Mohammad Usman, Farhan Ahmed and Muhammad Kaleem are all in line to make their competitive UAE debuts after impressing in the narrow 3-2 series defeat to England Lions last month.
Javed added: “We have included a few new players like Muhammad Kaleem, who plays as an opener and recently qualified for the UAE. He’s been doing well and had good performances. Also, Mohammad Usman is a smart batsman, who has good vision.”
This is the first squad named by the ECB since the advent of a full-time selection committee, led by chief selector Waleed Bukhatir including former captains Khurram Khan and Mohammad Tauqir, as well as ECB member Zayed Abbas.
The UAE take on the Netherlands in the four-day I-Cup from Thursday, January 21, while the first WCLC game will be played Wednesday, January 27.
The second one-day game will take place on Friday January 29, with all games to be played at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Cricket Stadium.