Rameez Shahzad has flown to England to play club cricket this summer ahead of the UAE’s participation at the Asia Cup Qualifiers later this year.
The 30-year-old batsman has put pen to paper on a short-team deal with Philadelphia, who play in the Durham Cricket League after being recommended by Durham’s director of cricket, Geoff Cook.
Shahzad is no stranger to English conditions. He spent time in the UK earlier in his career after travelling to the north-east of the country for his studies. He had played for Sunderland and South Shields in the Premier League.
His time away in the UK meant he had to wait to be eligible again to qualify as a resident as per the ICC rules after making his international debut for the UAE way back in 2005. He subsequently made his comeback during the Scotland tour in 2016.
Since then, Shahzad has been an integral member of the UAE side and is one of the contracted players on the Emirates Cricket Board’s books.
After a busy four months in 2018 that saw the national team compete in the Division Two World Cricket League as well as the World Cup Qualifiers, the UAE’s next assignment is September’s Asia Cup Qualifiers.
The UAE will host the main event later that month and Shahzad will use the England as vital preparation for that tournament.
“We don’t have anything until August so I thought that I might as well go to England and play cricket,” he said. “The conditions in the UK are a lot different than what it is in the UAE. But I think more importantly for me, it will be a great learning experience because I will learn more as a player. Playing club cricket and then ODI cricket, it will be easier for me.”
He looks set to make his debut this weekend and it’s a challenge that he’s looking forward to.
“I’m looking forward to it for sure,” he said. “The aim for me is to get as many runs as possible for them. It’s a very competitive league and they are looking to get promoted into the Premier League. My aim is to do really well and get them promoted.”
As well as enhancing his knowledge and skills, he also hopes his international team-mates can follow in his footsteps and be given a chance to play in England.
“If I play well here, one of my aims would be for my team-mates to try and earn a contract. I know our UAE guys deserve it because we are really good but because we’re Associate members, we’re sometimes overlooked, so I hope that can change.”
Eight schools from the UAE competed in Ajman University’s inter-school T20 tournament, which was won by DPS Dubai.
Against Millennium School at the Eden Gardens ground, Delhi Private School Dubai played a strong all-round game to prevail by eight wickets after chasing 121.
The executive director, professor Mustahsan Mir was delighted by what he saw. “The purpose of organising this tournament was to promote the sense of competition among young school boys and to recognise outstanding players in this important sport,” he said.
At the completion of the tournament, trophies and medals were awarded.
M.S. Sanjay from Millennium School received the Best Batsman award after scoring 195 runs with an average of 97.5.
Amrit Pal from Sharjah Indian School received the Best Bowler award after taking six wickets with an average of 7.33 runs.
M.S. Riddhesh from Millennium School was awarded the Best Fielder award with his seven dismissals including four stumpings, two-run outs and one catch. The Man of Series award was given to R. Aakash. Prosanta Chanda of Delhi Private School Dubai was presented with the Best Coach award.
Millennium School, Delhi Private School, Central School, Winchester School and Al Sadiq Islamic English School, Progressive English School, Sharjah Indian School and Pakistan Islamia School of Ajman competed in the competition.
The UAE will fly back to Dubai on the back of an impressive preliminary West Asia qualifying campaign that saw them continue their road to reaching the 2020 World Twenty20 in Australia.
Their nine-wicket success against Qatar in Friday’s final not only meant they got their hands on the winners’ trophy but maintained their 100 per cent record in the competition with six wins. They defeated Bahrain, Kuwait, Maldives and Saudi Arabia along the way earlier in the week.
There’s still a long way before they can even think about joining the big boys in the global showpiece event but with the opening phase of the qualifiers done, we look at why there are plenty of positives to take from Kuwait City.
LIVING UP TO EXPECTATIONS
On paper, the UAE were strong favourites to clinch one of the three qualification berths and they lived up to that billing in all their six matches. It had almost been a year since the national team played the shortest format but with various T20 competitions in the domestic circuit, the lack of matches didn’t pose a problem. Coach Dougie Brown stressed the importance of ‘dominating’ and they did exactly that with winning margins of four-wickets (Qatar), seven-wickets (Saudi Arabia), 51-runs (Bahrain), 43-runs (Maldives) and 86-runs (Kuwait).
With the first phase done, attention will now turn to Asia Qualifiers where even bigger tests await. A fixture against Nepal seems certain, providing the Asian side qualify from their Eastern Regional tournament in October. But the UAE can be encouraged by the fact they beat them in their last meeting at the Division Two World Cricket League final, and as such, would fancy their chances of claiming the top two spots.
IMPLEMENTING YOUNGSTERS INTO THE SQUAD
Prior to the trip to Kuwait, the last time Fahad Nawaz donned the national jersey in a competitive match was during the Under-19 Asia Cup last October when he skippered the team to qualification in Malaysia.
With such promise and highly-regarded in the set-up, the 18-year-old was given a chance to show what he’s made of with a place in the squad. He didn’t disappoint by taking four wickets in his two matches.
Brown suggested the importance of grooming upcoming players into the senior team for not only their personal development but for extra competition. With the UAE fortunate to have many young, talented cricketers in their books at Under-16 and Under-19 levels, expect more to follow in Nawaz’s footsteps.
MOHAMMED NAVEED AND ROHAN MUSTAFA LEAD BY EXAMPLE
With Shaiman Anwar and Ahmed Raza rested for the tour, Mohammad Naveed and captain Rohan Mustafa were the most experienced members in the squad and not for the first time, they made their presence count with consistent performances.
Mustafa dropped down to No.3 in the batting order but that didn’t stop him from scoring 71 in the first match. He also claimed 10 wickets in the competition and scooped the Player of the Tournament and Best Batsman accolades, again displaying his ability to lead from the front.
For Naveed, he showed why he sits inside the top-10 ICC bowlers in the format by taking 12 scalps. The pacer was on top of his game, picking up scalps in each of his five games, inclusive of three three wicket-hauls.