Saqlain Haider is looking forward to testing himself against international opposition again after admitting he was left hurt having been overlooked for last month’s Netherlands series.
The 30-year-old wicket-keeper/ batsman has been named in the 14-man squad for the Namibia tour later this month.
The UAE will face the African side in the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup in Windhoek next Saturday, as well as two 50-over matches in the World Cricket League on September 21 and 23.
It marks a return to the national team after Haider was not part of the travelling party which won the 50-over series 2-1 against the Dutch in July. Although he was pleased with the result, he was left frustra-ted he could play no part in Amsterdam and has now vowed to deliver his best against Namibia.
“I feel so happy to be back in the squad for this Namibia tour,” said Haider, who was part of the Asia Cup and 2015 World Cup squads.
“I felt very upset when I was not picked in the squad for the Netherlands tour but my family and friends give me a great support during that time. They pushed me to work more harder in training.”
The last time he represented the UAE, he scored a brilliant century as the team beat Papua New Guinea by nine wickets in their last I-Cup outing in April, in Abu Dhabi.
That feat was more remarkable considering he was studying for an MBA as well as working full-time.
It’s a role he has to continue to juggle with today, but he insists that’s no reason why he can’t replicate his success.
He said: “Scoring that century was one of the best moments of my life and it was tough because I was studying and working also, while also having to train. That gives me confidence and I’m really confident I can perform well on this tour.”
Head coach Dougie Brown has been impressed with Haider’s efforts and has hinted he could well be behind the stumps in the I-Cup match next Saturday.
“He’s been absolutely great,” said the 47-year-old. “He works very quietly and is very professional.
“The way he batted against PNG in that four-day game was just outstanding. It’s still early days but the thinking is that he might take the gloves in the four-day game and Shabbir takes the one-day games. If there’s any injury, both are capable batsmen. It’s exciting that there’s healthy competition for places.”
The ICC Academy (ICCA) will hold their first-ever trials for youngsters to earn a fully-funded scholarship this weekend as part of their plans in enhancing their grassroots programmes for budding cricketers in the UAE.
Boys aged between 12-18 will have a chance to impress on Saturday from 14:00 and those who catch the eye of the ICCA coaches will be rewarded with one of 12 paid scholarship into their Warriors Emerging Players Programme this season.
The Dubai-based venue is already an established cricketing centre and home of the UAE national team thanks to their state-of-the-art facilities. Their Babyshop Cricket Cubs and Warrior coaching programmes for youngsters have also been successful.
However, Will Kitchen, general manager at ICCA, says they want to build on this success by giving more opportunities for children including rewarding talented cricketers with a paid scholarship.
“The whole of the UAE is essentially privatised whether it’s schooling or healthcare, so barriers to a venue like ours can be pricey,” he said.
“We want to overcome that with fully-funded scholarships.
“That hopefully removes that barrier to costs to the venue and we’re looking for people who have that X-factor. Young players who show real point of difference whether it’s their desire or something we can see in terms of their physical attributes.
“We want to open our doors to those people who could be potentially be outstanding players who might not be able to come to the academy on the basis of costs. We are funding those ourselves. It’s a considerable investment for us but it will be a big benefit.”
While the scholarships form a key part in promoting grassroots cricket, so is coaching.
Qasim Ali, head of cricket development at ICCA, will oversee a strong coaching team and Kitchen believes it’s essential to offer the very best to children.
“My ambition now is to ensure that in grassroots cricket that we are not just a standalone cricket academy that coaches kids just to make revenue,” he said.
“Instead, we want to actually have some impact on the young people and lots of cricket who play the game here.
“There are three key differences that set us apart from other cricket academies in the UAE.
“The first point is the people – we have been forensic that we have the right type of people here so that young people can develop and have got staff that are fully professional and a real point of
“Second point is the quality of environment. There’s no other environment like this in the UAE. And then there’s the quality of programme with the purpose of our coaching equipping them for games.”
Ali, a former batsman for Lancashire, said it’s exciting times at the academy. “The players will have access to all the resources we have,” he said.
“The purpose of having all this – like a bowling machine, spin lane, using Australian wickets is to equip them with the skills.
“It’s like a kid going to a chocolate shop and pick whatever they want.”
Chirag Suri has vowed to raise his game and score “big runs” for the UAE in their matches against Namibia despite being satisfied with his performances against Netherlands.
Suri, 22, has retained his place in the 14-man squad for next month’s matches against the African outfit after scoring 25 runs in the triumphant 2-1 50-over series tour against Netherlands in July.
It means the batsman will have another chance to prove his potential when the UAE take on Namibia in the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup from September 16-19, as well as the two 50-over World Cricket League matches later that month.
And while he’s wary of the stern competition he faces, he is adamant to deliver whenever his opportunity comes.
“I was satisfied over there (in Netherlands) but I still want to be getting more runs,” said Suri, who was bought by Gujarat Lions in this year’s IPL auction.
“ I think being satisfied means you just hold back and be happy with what you got but I don’t think like that. I’m always happy with what I’ve got. I’m still happy with what I did there. It was rainy conditions and hard to score but I still want to do more and score the big runs for the UAE.”
If Suri does line up for the I-Cup game at Windhoek’s Wanderers Cricket Ground, he would be making his first-class debut.
It would be a big step up to a format he’s relatively unknown in, having played various T20 and 50-over matches. But it’s a challenge he’s ready to embrace.
“Obviously, the biggest challenge is the longest format because it’s the biggest test in today’s game,” said the former U-19 player. “You want to prove yourself in that level and if I do play, I’ll be making my first-class debut and want to get a couple of good scores.
“The amount of four-day cricket that we play in the UAE is negligible. Obviously, it’s not something that comes naturally to us and the coaches have really been putting the emphasis of staying as long as we can on the wicket. I want to be playing all three formats for the UAE so want to cement my place in the four-day side although it won’t be easy.”
The team will step up their preparations next Monday by flying to Pretoria for a 12-day training camp at Cricket South Africa High Performance Centre and in Windhoek.
Head coach Dougie Brown has already underlined the importance of that camp considering the matches in the Namibian capital will be played 5,600 feet above sea level.
And Suri is sure that will have a big impact on the whole team. “We have a very good preparation camp which is very exciting and very good opportunity for the boys to get used to the conditions,” he said.
“In Dubai, we have been practicing a lot and South Africa will be great to nuture the skills before then producing the goods against Namibia.”