UAE’s Mohammad Naveed is close to signing a deal to play in Nepal’s T20 Everest Premier League later this year.
The 31-year-old is set to sign a contract with Bhairahawa Gladiators, with an official announcement expected soon.
It will be the first time Naveed will be playing in Nepal and the pacer is looking forward to testing himself in the T20 competition.
“I am very close to signing the contract and it’s a tournament that I am looking forward to playing in. The Everest Premier League is a very good league which is growing and is attracting top internationals,” Naveed told Sport360.
Naveed will be playing in his second T20 overseas tournament in 2018 after playing three games for Toronto Nationals in June’s Global T20 Canada.
As well as that competition, Naveed also participated in the Hong Kong T20 Blitz where World T20 winner Darren Sammy was among this team-mates at Hung Hom JD Jaguars.
“It is great that I have been given another chance to play in a T20 league as I have played in the Global T20 Canada and Hong Kong Blitz tournaments. I have been playing very well in the last 18 months so that gives me confidence of doing well,” he said.
He is set to be the second UAE international to play in the event after Rohan Mustafa signed up for Kathmandu Kings XI in July.
The two were part of Toronto Nationals’ side in Canada in June and Naveed says it’s great that they will be part of another overseas T20 tournament.
“I am very happy that Rohan has signed up for the tournament as well because it shows that there is a lot of talent in the UAE national team,” he added.
“It’s a tournament that I can’t wait to play in and it’s one that I really want to do well in.”
This year’s Everest Premier League is likely to be held in late November with Naveed revealing he would have to miss “two or three” games if he is selected in the T10 League in Sharjah.
Naveed was part of the Bengal Tigers squad in last year’s edition and hopes to don the same jersey in the 2018 edition.
“I have spoken to the team management that I am very interested in playing for them,” he said. “They have a strong team and really enjoyed playing for them last year.”
UAE’s Rameez Shahzad believes he’s a better batsman now than he was in May when he flew out to England for a short-term club spell.
The 30-year-old played 25 matches in the space of four months for Philadelphia Cricket Club as he tested himself against English opposition in the Durham Cricket League.
Shahzad is a key member of the national team, scoring more than 800 international runs, so it was no surprise he let the bat do the talking in style for Philadelphia.
He made an instant impact by scoring a half-century on his debut and by the time he left for Dubai earlier this month, Shahzad had nine fifties and one century to his name. He could have added to that tally but had to return to the UAE to prepare for the Asia Cup qualifiers in Malaysia at the end of this month.
Yet, the fact that he impressed in the north east of England is no shock. He spent time in the UK earlier in his career when he studied in the region playing for Sunderland and South Shields in the Premier League.
And Shahzad believes the time at the crease has helped him develop his all-round game which he can start putting to practice for the UAE in Kuala Lumpur.
“It was an amazing experience for me as a cricketer,” said Shahzad. “In England, the conditions are very difficult because the weather changes constantly and is very unpredictable. It’s quite rare to find conditions that are half decent for batsmen. With so much grass and the ball swinging in all different directions, you have to be focused.
“I think the one thing I have learnt is that you can’t switch off. When you’re batting on a perfect track there are times where you can switch off and just keep going. But in England, that is not the case. Even if you score a hundred, even if you do one bad shot, you will get out. You really have to grasp the situation and be awake in all the innings.”
He added: “My footwork has also improved and that helps me get more runs for the team which will be good for my development and the UAE national team.”
Shahzad said he is always open to returning to Philadelphia for another stint after praising their hospitality during his stay.
“I would love to go back and play for them again,” he said. “I really enjoyed myself there and they are a great bunch of lads with whom I enjoyed playing cricket with every week.”
The UAE have already begun preparations for this year’s Under-19 Asia Cup with aspiring cricketers looking to press their case for selection over the summer.
Up to 25 players have been put through their paces since June after being selected by the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) following their impressive performances during the domestic season.
They will be aiming to be rewarded with a place in the final squad for October’s Asia Cup where hosts Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Nepal and Afghanistan make up the eight sides in the tournament.
With stern competition expected in Dhaka, the boys have been training every week at the ICC Academy with the ECB keen to give them the best preparation. It also provides an opportunity for the governing body to analyse performances before choosing their squad for the upcoming tournament.
ECB national development manager Andy Russell admits it was difficult to decide on a shortlist for the final stage of the selection process from a pool of more than 100 players.
“We are in a fortunate position of having a lot of young players coming through,” said Russell, the ECB’s national development manager.
“To identify the best is always difficult and there will be a group of players who will be disappointed not to be there (when the squad is announced). It was a difficult process but we have based it on the season-long performances.
“What was taken into account predominantly was the six-month academy league that we run – and the UAE Cricket League that we host. This training camp is the real block of training that we will give where the selectors will look to identify the best for the Asia Cup.”
The ECB have rolled out the same plans for their Under-16s although no international tournament has been scheduled.
“The Under-16s have been training every week since June but although we are still waiting on whether there will be any competition for them, it’s a great way for them to enhance their game and knowledge,” added Russell.