It might have only been a practice match but UAE skipper Saqib Nazir believes their victory over New Zealand has given them the belief they are capable of beating the best at the Indoor Cricket World Cup.
With just a few days to go until the tournament begins at InSportz Club in Dubai on Saturday, the UAE gave themselves a big boost by defeating New Zealand 81-75 in their first practice match on Monday night.
The victory was impressive considering that the Kiwis have finished runners-up in the World Cup six times of the nine editions including the 2014 defeat to champions Australia.
Vikrant Shetty, who once played for the outdoor UAE side, was one of the players to shine by scoring 20 runs and taking two wickets.
The two sides will meet again in the opening match of the tournament on Saturday and Nazir says the win is proof they can compete at this level.
“That is a big boost for us,” said the 42-year-old batsman. “It has given us confidence that we can compete. After beating New Zealand, the guys are really taking it positively and we are charged up for the tournament.”
Despite the victory, which did not see former New Zealand international Jesse Ryder in action, Nazir still feels there’s plenty of room for improvement.
“There’s still a lot to do,” he said. “If you saw yesterday, we made a lot of blunders in bowling. But the batting was perfect and it was something that we planned.
“During the bowling and fielding, there’s plenty to improve on because we made a lot of mistakes. We gave around 25 runs just in the form of extras. That can easily be put down to 10 or 15 runs. We have spoken as a team on that aspect and we just want to keep on working hard and hopefully everything will be fine during the tournament.”
Having trained with the team regularly for the last three weeks, Nazir cannot wait to lead the team out in the global competition.
“It’s a huge opportunity for me,” he said. “It will be the first time that the UAE will be competing in a Indoor World Cup. It’s one of the biggest events in the game and I’m really privileged and honoured to be the captain of this UAE team.”
— Denzil M Pinto (@denz_360) September 11, 2017
Two members of the UAE women’s indoor side hope the team’s participation in the Indoor Cricket World Cup can inspire more girls to play the format.
Chaya Mughal and Roopa Nagraj are among the players in the 12-person squad as hosts UAE make their debut in the global tournament against England at InSportz Club on Saturday afternoon.
The indoor side is pretty much made up of players of the outdoor national team, who have won the last two Gulf Cups as well as finishing runners –up in the UAE Women’s International Cup in December.
While that has helped the women’s outdoor cricket grow in the UAE, the indoor version is majority played by men. But Mughal and Nagraj hopes the Indoor Cricket World Cup can be the starting point of boosting the numbers of female indoor cricketers.
“Most definitely it can,” said all-rounder Nagraj, who is a coach at the ICC Academy. “The fact that the Indoor World Cup is being played in Dubai is a big boost for the girls playing here. There are around 150 girls who are playing cricket in the UAE but the indoor game is relatively new.
“We have a lot of inter-academies that play the outdoor game. Hopefully this should be a good tournament and we put up a good show and impress a lot of girls to play the game one day.”
Mughal echoed her team-mate’s view and hopes there will be a lot of females in the stands during the games.
“Cricket in the UAE is rapidly increasing and I’m sure in the coming days, weeks or coming months, there will be girls who will be inspired to play the game especially in the indoor version,” said the fast-bowler.
“I want females to come out and support us and watch us play. It’s a big thing and we hope that when they watch us play, we can do them proud and hopefully they can follow in our footsteps and play indoor cricket.”
— UAE Cricket Official (@EmiratesCricket) September 5, 2017
The side has been stepping up their preparations in the last week and Nagraj says the format certainly poses its own challenges but are relishing the chance of playing indoor cricket.
“At first it was a bit of a challenge because we were playing outdoor cricket but we have picked up the game pretty well,” she said.
“It’s a very fast game and all of us are involved in the batting and bowling and fielding. It’s pretty quick compared to the outdoor game and with every ball that is bowled you have to be quick and be more alert.”
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.”