UAE captain Rohan Mustafa and two other players were suspended from international cricket for eight weeks by the Emirates Cricket Board for their outburst on social media over playing conditions during the Emerging Teams Asia Cup in Pakistan.
Mustafa, Ahmed Raza and Rameez Shahzad were suspended by the ECB, fined and warned about their conduct.
The UAE were close to qualification for the semi-finals of the tournament in Karachi earlier this month. However, rain ruined their chances in the final pool match against Hong Kong. Apparently, it was a brief spell of shower that rendered the ground unplayable after water seeped through the covers .
Later on, the players took to Twitter to express their anger. Mustafa blamed the poor facility at the Southend Stadium for the team’s predicament while Raza lambasted the ‘club level covers’. A win for UAE would have boosted their chances of a semi-final spot. However, Bangladesh defeated Pakistan to move ahead of UAE and qualify for the semis.
Later, the players deleted the tweets and apologised for their statements, thanking the Pakistan board for hosting the UAE team.
In a statement, the UAE board said: “Rohan Mustafa, Ahmed Raza and Rameez Shahzad, had violated its Code of Conduct and requirements for the use of social media. As a result, each of the players have been suspended from international cricket for a period of eight weeks, fined and warned about their future conduct. ECB wishes to make clear that it takes the conduct and discipline of its players very seriously, and will not make any further comment on this matter.”
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UAE will be participating in the Emerging Teams Asia Cup, which will be held in Pakistan and Sri Lanka starting December 6.
Bangladesh, India, Afghanistan and Oman are the other teams that are participating in the tournament which is being organised by the Asian Cricket Council (ACC). India will be playing all its games in Sri Lanka.
For the UAE team members, who originally hail from Pakistan, it’s a momentous occasion as they prepare for their first match against Bangladesh in Karachi on December 6.
“The boys are excited. We are from Pakistan and playing in Pakistan will be great,” captain Mustafa told Sport360 on Sunday.
“We will be playing there after a long time. We will try our best to qualify for the semi-finals and travel to Sri Lanka. I have played in Karachi but that tour was almost eight years ago. It will be great playing for UAE in Karachi.”
The UAE team will travel to Pakistan on December 4 and have a practice session the next day before their opening match. UAE’s Indian origin batsman Chirag Suri won’t be travelling to Pakistan due to personal reasons. All-rounder Fahad Nawaz has been selected as his replacement.
Full member nations like India and Pakistan will be fielding mainly Under-23 players in the tournament while the UAE and Oman are sending their senior squads. Mustafa said he is looking forward to playing in front of his home crowd, and hopefully a few friends.
“I have a few friends in Karachi and they will come to watch us play. They played cricket in UAE with me and they have played first-class cricket in Karachi as well,” the 30-year-old said.
Meanwhile, Emirates Cricket Board spokesperson Zayed Abbas said the board is satisfied with the security arrangements in place in Pakistan.
International cricket had deserted the south Asian nation following the attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in 2009. However the cricketing world is slowly returning to Pakistan, with Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and the West Indies among nations to visit the country in the last three years.
Abbas stated he has been to Pakistan himself twice in the last year and believes the country has done a lot in an effort to host international cricket again.
“Pakistan has been following strict security procedures. I have attended two events in Pakistan in the last year. I attended an ACC meeting. I also went there during a development committee meeting, which was held during the Pakistan-Sri Lanka T20 in last October,” Abbas said.
“The process of sending the team is the same. In this case also, the procedure has been the same as any other ACC or ICC event.”
It has been one year since the former India all-rounder set up the Robin Singh Sports Academy in Dubai. He is one of three prominent Indian names to set up a coaching base in the UAE alongside MS Dhoni and Ravi Ashwin. And the journey that has largely been fruitful is set to take a major leap forward.
Singh is pleased by the progress his academy has made in a year and has big plans for the future. That includes a comprehensive set-up at the Iranian Club, Oud Metha, in Dubai, special programmes for gifted cricketers and a state-of-the-art fitness regime.
“The progress has been very good. Right now we are in the process of making a (cricket) ground at the Iranian Club and we are also changing the lights there. We already have nets, we have natural wickets. That’s huge progress,” Singh, who is currently in the UAE as coach of the Norther Warriors in the T10 League, told Sport360.
Dedicated training programmes, heightened fitness awareness and a well-rounded approach towards a professional career in cricket are the focal points of Robin Singh’s academy. For that, Singh has planned fitness testing sessions with nanoM Sports and Human Performance Clinic. That is just one aspect of being a professional cricketer. The rest, as Singh says, is all down to hard work.
“Many people look to go out of Dubai. We want to get people back into Dubai. So much international cricket happens here, with the facilities you can accommodate that. Of course, you need exposure by going out and playing in other venues like England, India, Sri Lanka. Wherever I have connections, I am going to expose them to different environments.
“Not only that, we will have special camps, special programmes. I want to focus a lot on fitness. I have tied up with nanoM who do a lot of fitness testing. They have some of the best facilities across the globe. I want to get some of these boys in there to understand that we can do programmes that are set out for them for the next three to four years,” Singh stated.
“I want to make sure people understand that there is a pathway forward. There is enough exposure here for any young kid to make it to the next level on the international circuit. You don’t need to leave the UAE for anything. What is important is for kids to understand that there is no short cut.”
Singh knows the importance of having good education along with developing a cricketing career and has therefore teamed up with Manipal University in India. “I want to see how we can offer scholarships as well for some of these young kids if they are interested. So that they can continue their studies as well,” he added.
UAE’s next stars
Singh’s academy has already worked with some recognisable UAE names, showing his institution is on the right path when it comes to nurturing and polishing local talent and taking them to the next level.
“We have a few players in the UAE team. One of the players is Rahul Bhatia. We picked him as he is also playing for the UAE national team, so pretty much deserves selection. There is another boy named Ansh Tandon who has been part of the academy. These are a couple of players who in the past one year who have worked with us and grown leaps and bounds,” the 55-year-old said.
Last year, left-arm spinner Bhatia played a major role helping the UAE emerge as Asia U-19 Western Region champions in Malaysia.