UAE cricket team hope for swift return from Namibia due to Omicron restrictions

National team are in Windhoek for the resumption of their Cricket World Cup League Two campaign

The UAE cricket team are currently in Namibia for the resumption of the Cricket World Cup League Two. Pawan Singh / The National

The UAE are hoping to return from Namibia on Sunday, before a ball has been bowled in their World Cup qualifying campaign in Windhoek, due to concerns over the new Covid-19 variant.

The national team flew to southern Africa last week, ahead of the resumption of Cricket World Cup League Two.

They have not played in the competition since January 2020 due to the pandemic. They remain scheduled to play hosts Namibia in a one-day international on Monday.

The ICC, who are the series organisers, and the Emirates Cricket Board are yet to comment on the situation, and the first two matches of the tri-series – between Oman and Namibia – have proceeded as scheduled.

However, it is understood players and staff are privately focused on returning home to UAE as soon as possible, given the travel restrictions brought about in response to the Omicron strain of the virus.

On Friday, it was announced the UAE will suspend the entry of travellers from seven southern Africa countries.

The decision, which comes into effect on Monday, will affect passengers who have travelled through South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Botswana or Mozambique over the past 14 days.

The General Civil Aviation Authority and the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Emergency Management Authority made the announcement at the weekend.

The national cricket team might be covered by an exemption which states “members of diplomatic missions, official delegations and those with golden residence visas are excluded from the new rules”.

However, the tour party in Namibia are understood to be keen to return, given their previous experiences during the pandemic.

Despite having limited game time over the past 22 months, the players and staff are no strangers to life in quarantine.

For example, Robin Singh’s first two years as coach of the national team have been severely hindered by travel restrictions brought about by the coronavirus.

The former India all-rounder was unable to travel to UAE from India for a significant time in 2020 when flights were grounded because of the pandemic.

Similar happened when he was serving as assistant coach for Mumbai Indians earlier this year, when the Indian Premier League was suspended because of the deadly second wave of the virus in the country.

Some players, such as the batsman CP Rizwan, have also had to spend lengths of time out of the country when entry to UAE has been halted.

The World Cup League Two itself has been largely ill-fated so far. The UAE have seen games postponed or called off because of events as unlikely as rain in Sharjah, the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said, and then for the best part of two years because of a global pandemic.

The ICC did act at the weekend to cancel another series in southern Africa. It was announced on Saturday the Women’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2021 in Harare has been called off due to the new travel restrictions.

The decision was taken during the preliminary league phase of the nine-team tournament, which was to decide the final three qualifiers for the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup 2022 in New Zealand.

Bangladesh, Pakistan and the West Indies will now progress to the event in New Zealand, based on their ICC rankings.

“We are incredibly disappointed to have to cancel the remainder of this event but with travel restrictions from a number of African countries being imposed at such short notice there was a serious risk that teams would be unable to return home,” Chris Tetley, the ICC head of events, said.

Updated: November 28th 2021, 5:11 AM