The stage is all set for the 2020 T20 World Cup Qualifier which gets under way on Friday, with 14 teams including hosts UAE set to battle it out for the six spots on offer.
The top six teams from the upcoming tournament will join Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in Australia for the first round of the 2020 T20 World Cup, which begins a year from now. Four teams from the first round will then advance to the Super 12 stage where they will join the heavyweights such as Australia, India, England and Pakistan.
The stakes, as such, couldn’t be higher for the 14 teams in the UAE currently with T20 cricket fever set to grip Dubai and Abu Dhabi over the coming days.
The 14 participating teams have been divided into two groups containing seven sides apiece, as follows:
Group A: Scotland, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Namibia, Singapore, Bermuda and Kenya.
Group B: UAE, Ireland, Oman, Hong Kong, Canada, Jersey and Nigeria.
Each team from a particular group will take on the six others in a league style format. Group A fixtures will take place in Dubai at the Dubai International Cricket stadium and the ICC Academy grounds while Group B matches will be held at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket stadium in Abu Dhabi.
After a total of 42 league games, the two respective group-toppers will secure a place in the first round in Australia while also advancing to the semi-final of the qualifying tournament.
The four other teams to join them in Australia will be decided through a series of five play-off clashes.
The teams which finish second in their respective group will take on the third-placed side from the other group in the first two play-off matches. The winner of the two clashes will also secure a place in the first round in Australia while advancing to the qualifying semi-final.
Then, the losers of those two clashes will take on the fourth-placed teams from both groups in a couple of play-off clashes. The winners of those two matches will become the fifth and sixth teams to book their tickets to Australia.
While the six qualifiers will have been decided by then, the tournament will continue with the semi-finals, final and third-place decider to come in Dubai. The final of the tournament takes place on November 2 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Matches: 51— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) October 16, 2019
Sides that'll qualify for next year's #T20WorldCup: 6
Venues: 5@niallnobiobrien has a look around the three Dubai grounds being used for the T20 World Cup Qualifier. pic.twitter.com/aZY3Odd5lv
How UAE are shaping up
With an ICC T20I ranking of 12, the hosts are the second-highest rated team in the competition with only Ireland ranked above them. As such, they will be the one of the favourites to top Group B and secure a direct place in the first round in Australia. It won’t be easy, however, with neighbours Oman making rapid strides in recent months while Hong Kong, Canada and even Jersey are potential banana skins.
That the team have lost the services of their skipper Mohammad Naveed, Qadeer Ahmed Khan and Shaiman Anwar Butt after they were charged by the ICC’s anti-corruption unit, just days before the start of the tournament, has thrown a spanner into the works.
The responsibility of leading the side is now on the shoulders of Ahmed Raza and the left-arm orthodox spinner definitely has his work cut out for him. Still, the qualification outlook remains rosy for the UAE despite the disruption, with the side registering a morale-boosting win over a strong Scotland in a recent warm-up clash.
The side’s campaign opener against Oman could prove to be their toughest test in Group B and it is one they will be desperate to win. Ireland, despite their higher ranking, have not been in the best of form in the T20 format but they will still pose a big threat. Hong Kong have recently lost the services of their talismanic skipper Anshuman Rath and that will be a factor in the tournament.
UAE Key Players
All-rounder Rohan Mustafa and top-order batsman Ashfaq Ahmed now become pivotal to the UAE’s hopes in the tournament and both of them were in fine form when the side emphatically blanked Netherlands 4-0 earlier this year in Amstelveen.
While Mustafa finished as the top wicket-taker in that series, Ashfaq was instrumental with the bat and averaged more than 50. The pair, along with skipper Reza, need to stand up big time if the UAE are to go deep in the tournament and qualify for Australia.
Other major contenders
Scotland, Ireland and Oman will definitely be up there in the tournament and should be able to progress to Australia alongside the UAE if they play to their potential. As for the dark horses, Singapore have been making all the right noises recently while Bermuda and Jersey are no pushovers either.
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Three UAE players, including former skipper Mohammad Naveed, have been provisionally suspended from cricket with immediate effect after they were charged with the breach of several ICC anti-corruption rules.
Skipper Naveed, Qadeer Ahmed Khan and Shaiman Anwar Butt had recently withdrawn from the initial squad for the 2020 T20 World Cup qualifiers starting in the UAE on Friday. No explanation was given at the time for their absence.
According to Wednesday’s ICC press release, skipper Naveed has been charged with the breach of four anti-corruption codes while Qadeer has been found in breach of six. Shaiman, meanwhile, has been charged with the breach of two codes.
One of the codes Naveed has been charged for is Article 2.1.1 which relates to contriving, or being party to an agreement or effort to fix or contrive or otherwise influence improperly, the result, progress, conduct or any other aspect of matches in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
A trio of UAE players have been provisionally suspended from cricket.https://t.co/yX7nB3MccI— ICC (@ICC) October 16, 2019
Naveed has also been charged with a further two breaches of the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) Code for the T10 League. The ICC had earlier been appointed by the ECB as the Designated Anti-Corruption Official for the purposes of the ECB’s Code at the T10 League.
A fourth player, Mehardeep Chhayakar, has also been charged by the ICC along with the UAE national team trio. Chhayakar has participated in cricket tournaments in Ajman.
The four players have two weeks to respond to the charges laid out against them.
“Emirates Cricket Board acknowledge the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit investigation involving three of its players,” an ECB statement read.
“The board fully supports the ICC and the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit in their efforts, and denounces any activities of corruption.”
The Emirates Cricket Board has officially announced the team that will represent the UAE at the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Under-16 Western Region tournament.
In showing the Emirates Cricket Board’s unwavering commitment to developing local talent, Emirati U16 middle-order batsman and spin-bowler, Obaid Tauqir, has been selected for the team.
Zayed Abbas, Emirates Cricket Board member and spokesperson, said: “We are very excited and proud to select Obaid and provide him with this opportunity. It remains a mandate of the board to grow our Emirati youth cricketers into UAE representative players who will stand on the domestic, regional and international stage.
“We are confident he will receive a valuable and rewarding experience through his competing at the ACC U16 tournament, and playing alongside experienced and talented players.”
With a strong number of Emirati youths currently being introduced to the sport through Emirates Cricket’s Pinsent Masons Emirati Development Programme (EDP), which is conducted at various local schools across the UAE, the selection of Tauqir will no doubt be noticed and provide these youths with a strong Emirati role model.
Tauqir will also relish in the depth and experience of his fellow team-mates, especially under the captaincy and guidance of U16 domestic and regional stalwart-player and leader Adithya Shetty.
Mohamed Tauqir, UAE national teams’ selector and former UAE men’s captain who led them at the 2015 Cricket World Cup 2015, added: “This is a great milestone for Emirates Cricket, and one we thank the board for.
“Obaid has been working very hard on his game over the last three years; with his local academy (Desert Cricket Cubs Academy – Sharjah), actively involved in school-led tournaments, as well as exposed to ECB’s various age-group competitions.
“Obaid’s coaches at his school (Victoria International School – Sharjah) and his academy have been very supportive and have recognised his potential. As an Emirati, this is an outstanding opportunity for him to represent his country and embrace the chance to enhance his cricketing skills.”
To be played in a 35-overs-a-side format, hosted in Oman, the tournament will commence on Monday, October 21, and continue through to October 29. The UAE have been drawn into Pool A alongside Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Iran with Pool B showcasing Qatar, the Maldives, Kuwait and hosts Oman.
Adithya Shetty (C), Soorya Sathish, Kai Smith, Chris Sequeira, Muhammad Babar, Rudra Mahadev, Aayan Khan, Harshit Seth, Ali Naseer, Jash Giyanani, Muhammad Zuhaib, Rishit Sharma, Annant Bhargava, Obaid Tauqir