UAE should be optimistic about their pre-World Cup qualification chances and other talking points

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On Thursday, the UAE will begin their most important tournament since the Asia Cup qualifiers when they line up in the ICC World Cricket League Division Two and it’s a lot more than just being champions.

After a disappointing campaign in Division One, finishing third from bottom, the UAE will be hoping to make the most of their second chance and qualify for the 2019 World Cup, which is to be hosted in England and Wales. Just two spots are available to join the likes of West Indies and Afghanistan next month with Oman, Kenya, Canada, Nepal and hosts Namibia all standing in their way.

Here, we look at three reasons why the UAE should be optimistic:

Counting on experience

The ECB have been careful not to do too much chopping and changing in the last 12 months with an eye on qualifying for elite tournaments and their decisions have been paying off. Since the Desert T20 last January, 10 players from that squad are currently in Namibia and the majority of players have played more or less non-stop over the past 12 months.

While some UAE players will be contesting a tournament of such significance for the first time in their international careers, the team has plenty of experience in the ranks.

Among them is veteran batsman Shaiman Anwar, who at 37, is the oldest member of the travelling party as well as the likes of captain Rohan Mustafa, Ahmed Raza and Mohammed Naveed who have all been at this stage before.

Good run of form

If this tournament had come this time one year ago, the prospect of the UAE’s qualifying chances looked a lot bleaker than they do now. Victories and consistency were hard to come by especially when the ECB were searching for a permanent successor to Aaqib Javed.

But with former Warwickshire supremo Dougie Brown brought in as interim coach in February and then being named new head coach three months later, they have rediscovered the form that made them one of the top Associate sides under Javed.

In the last 30 matches, 20 wins have been registered including triumphs over Oman, Papua New Guinea and an impressive away series win in the Netherlands. They might have been beaten by Ireland in Dubai prior to their departure but their victory over Scotland shows they will be a force to be reckoned with.

https://twitter.com/EmiratesCricket/status/958315173105799168

Preparation

With the matches in Namibia played in high altitude, the UAE have left no stones unturned. While Nepal have prepared for the tournament by training in Dubai, Brown’s side travelled to Pretoria for a week-long training camp ahead of their arrival in Windhoek. It was the same when they toured the African nation last September and that yielded positives results with victory in the four-day I-Cup and their World Cricket League Championship encounter.

Competition will be much fiercer considering what is at stake this time round and the tight schedule of the tournament being completed in just seven days just adds to the list of obstacles that they must overcome.

Brown made it clear ahead of the Zimbabwe ‘A’ 5-0 whitewash in October, the focus was claiming one of the top two spots in Division Two and it’s a vision shared by the players. It’s now up to them to deliver and keep their World Cup dream alive. After all, they will only have themselves to blame if they can’t continue their World Cup road in Zimbabwe.

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Team-by-team guide and verdict for ICC World Cricket League Division Two

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The UAE will be one of six teams aiming to continue their road of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup when they compete in the ICC World Cricket League Division Two from Thursday.

Only the top two nations will advance to the Qualifiers where the likes of West Indies and Ireland await next month in Zimbabwe.

Here we look at all six sides and our verdict of where they will finish.

UAE

Rohan Mustafa

Rohan Mustafa

Captain: Rohan Mustafa
ODI Ranking: 13
How they qualified: Relegated from World Cricket League Championship (fifth).
Verdict: First. On paper, one of the strongest sides in the competition. Rediscovering their best form and should deliver.

Kenya

Rakep Patel

Rakep Patel

Captain: Rakep Patel
ODI Ranking: N/A
How they qualified: Relegated from World Cricket League Championship (fifth)
Verdict: Second. Unlucky to miss out on reaching the Qualifiers but did beat champions Netherlands and Hong Kong

Namibia

Sarel Berger

Sarel Berger

Captain: Sarel Berger
ODI Ranking: N/A
How they qualified: Relegated from World Cricket League Championship (last)
Verdict: Third. Might have finished bottom of the WCLC but with home conditions could spring a surprise.

Nepal

Paras Khadka

Paras Khadka

Captain: Paras Khadka
ODI Ranking: N/A
How they qualified: Relegated from World Cricket League Championship (Seventh)
Verdict: Fourth. Lost to both UAE and Kenya in December and will need series of team efforts to continue their road.

Oman

Sultan Ahmed

Sultan Ahmed

Captain: Sultan Ahmed
ODI Ranking: N/A
How they qualified: Promoted from Division Three (joint first)
Verdict: Fifth. Won all their Division Three matches and while it will be a stern task it could be a bridge too far for the Gulf nation.

Canada

Nitish Kumar

Nitish Kumar

Captain: Nitish Kumar
ODI Ranking: N/A
How they qualified: Promoted from Division Three (joint first)
Verdict: Sixth. Can draw on the experience of Nikhil Dutta and Hamza Tariq, who have played in Caribbean Premier League but tough week lies in store.

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It's Just Cricket youngsters enjoy a training session with Zimbabwe in Dubai

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A group of budding cricketers picked the brains of Zimbabwe captain Craig Ervine and head coach Heath Streak during a special training session in Dubai.

Ervine and Streak as well as Lance Klusener and Sean Bell, members of the national team’s coaching staff took time out from their busy schedule to share their tips to more than 15 youngsters of It’s Just Cricket Academy in a two-hour masterclass at Dubai College.

The visit was arranged by Sam Charnley, international director of cricket at IJC and their head of development Bradley Staddon, who assisted Zimbabwe’s training sessions ahead of their series against Afghanistan in the UAE.

For Charnley, he said it was a great experience for the young cricketers and has no doubt that their time with Zimbabwe will help them with their development.

“It was a fantastic experience being involved in Zimbabwe’s training session and the fact they wanted to come down to the session to see local talent and get involved was amazing,” he said.

“Our players got an opportunity to get inside of the minds of the coaching staff and players of Zimbabwe national team and asked as many questions as they wanted. The opportunity they had on Wednesday was another great bit of exposure to the highest level that we provide. Previously, we have had visits from Muddassar Nazar, John Gloster and Apurva Desai (Dinesh Karthik’s batting coach).”

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