The Emirates Cricket Board is targeting January 2016 as a date to hand out its first central contracts to UAE national team cricketers and has opened discussions with players to gauge their interest in turning professional.
Central contracts have long been mooted by the ECB and on the back of an impressive 12 months on the pitch, the governing body are now putting the wheels in motion to move away from being an amateur side.
A first appearance at a T20 World Cup and a second ever 50-over World Cup in Australia and New Zealand have been experienced by Aaqib Javed and his players over the last year.
Appearances on the global scene and a taste of the lucrative tournaments seem to have pushed the UAE towards professionalism.
“We are targeting from January to maybe offer full-time contracts to four to six players to start with and then adding two to three players every year,” Javed told Sport360.
“I think within two, maybe three years time we will see 60-70 percent full-time UAE players.”
— ICC (@ICC) May 20, 2015
While Javed acknowledged that a fully professional side is still some way off, the former Pakistan international is pleased that professional terms are on the horizon for his players.
“The only way to feel professional is to play more often and play with a fuller team regularly and then you have full-time players who you can develop as professionals.
“We have talented players but we have to compromise on their schedules.”
While the likes of 43-year-old stalwarts Mohammad Tauqir and Khurram Khan are unlikely to be offered central deals, younger members of the squad have already been approached by Javed to assess their enthusiasm to turn their beloved sport into a career.
The likes of World Cup stars Shaiman Anwar and Mohammed Naveed are joined by youngster Chirag Suri at the head of that queue.
— UAE Cricket Official (@EmiratesCricket) May 17, 2015
“It’s about giving the option [of central contracts] and there are a few players very committed to their professional life but there are a few who want to become full-time professionals.
“Shaiman Anwar has shown his interest, [also] Mohammed Naveed, (Muhammed) Shahzad, Mana (Guruge) and a few youngsters like Chirag Suri so there are a few options and it’s really exciting to see that because once you have full-time players you can work on them as professionals.”
One man who it seems will not be vying for a central contract is World Cup opener Andri Berenger.
Born in the UAE , Berenger has headed back to his parents’ homeland Sri Lanka in an attempt to play for the country.
— UAE Cricket Official (@EmiratesCricket) May 18, 2015
Javed explained: “Andri Berenger left the UAE and I don’t know his exact plans, but he might try his luck in Sri Lanka now. He’s focused now to play Sri Lanka club cricket and maybe the pathways to getting into the Sri Lankan team.”
Berenger, whose last attempt at forging a way into the Sri Lankan side saw him represent the country in the 2010 U19 World Cup, endured a disappointing World Cup in which he scored just 53 runs in six games.
More than half of those runs (35) came in the UAE’s first two games of the tournament against fellow minnows Zimbabwe (22) and Ireland (13).
The 23-year-old batsman is currently plying his trade for Saracens Sports Club in their domestic T20 campaign.
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