Alishan Sharafu says the UAE are capable of achieving “great things” at the U19 World Cup in the Caribbean.
The national team start their campaign on Saturday against Canada in St Kitts. They then face pool matches against England and holders Bangladesh next week.
The competition marks just the third time the UAE have appeared on the global scale at U19 level. They had free admission as hosts in 2014, before qualifying on the field to play in South Africa two years ago.
A return to the event was sealed in absentia this time. The qualifying process was derailed by Covid, and the UAE qualified on the basis of their record in recent years.
Sharafu, the side’s captain, is one of three players who also represented the country in South Africa in 2020.
The middle-order batsman is grateful to be returning for another crack at the event, and the chance to avenge the disappointment of last time.
The UAE missed out on the business phase of the competition back then after a storm ruined their shot at chasing a win against hosts South Africa.
“It really hurt when a chance of a lifetime of going through to a Super Eight of the U19 World Cup was taken away but fortunately we’ve been blessed with another opportunity and been given another shot at it,” Sharafu said.
“I feel we have a very, very talented group of boys and a more balanced with our bowling being our strength, especially our spin attack.
“A few of us were at the last World Cup and it’s great to pass on that experience to the newer boys and make them want to do well at this one because not many are blessed with this opportunity.”
Although the age-group players regularly train with their senior compatriots, Sharafu is the only player in the U19 squad to have sampled full international cricket so far.
The Kerala-born teen has played six T20 internationals and one one-day international for the national team to date. He is hoping to bring some of that experience to bear when the U19 event gets under way.
“Being around the men’s setup for a while just adds a confidence booster because the challenges here were already simulated or experienced there,” Sharafu said. “That obviously helps to figure and work out solutions to problems at the U19 level.
“What I want to pass on to my players is to just enjoy the opportunity and challenges, and be positive and believe that we together can achieve great things.”
UAE v Pakistan, U19 Asia Cup in December
As well as the benefit of experience of Sharafu, Kai Smith and Ali Naseer, each of whom played last time, the players will also be able to lean on the wisdom of Mudassar Nazar. The 65-year-old coach played nearly 200 times for Pakistan, including touring West Indies.
“Most of them are already relishing the chance to rub shoulders against the best in the world,” Mudassar said of his young charges. “So far the confidence is high. Having Alishan and Kai amongst us is a real bonus. Their experience is of immense value.”
The UAE’s two warm up matches on tour included a hefty win over Papua New Guinea, plus a narrow loss to England. Mudassar believes the UAE have a well-balanced side who are capable of improving on their pool-stage exit two years ago.
“I was not around then but I am fairly confident that this bunch of players will be very competitive,” Mudassar said. “I guess our top order batting is settled but we have plenty of allrounders, which provide us with depth.
“Spin bowling is a real asset with at least five who bowl spin. Pitches in West Indies are helpful to spinners. We should be able to defend any reasonable total.”