UAE's spin riches bolstered by emergence of Jash Giyanani

Leading wicket-taker for country at Under 19 World Cup is part of a deep pool of left-arm spinners

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Any young bowler who finishes as their country’s leading wicket-taker during a successful campaign at an Under 19 World Cup might feel as though they are due a crack at senior team selection.

Given the unprecedented wealth of left-arm spinners in UAE cricket, though, Jash Giyanani probably feels more like he is joining a queue, rather than skipping it.

The 17-year-old Jumeirah College schoolboy took 10 wickets at an average of 14.3 and an economy rate of 3.76 to help UAE to the plate at the World Cup in the Caribbean.

His finest display came in adversity, too. With a number of senior players down – including his spin-bowling partners – with Covid, he thrived, taking three top-order wickets to derail West Indies’ semi-final run chase. It set up a famous win.

And yet his discipline remains the most competitive of any within UAE cricket. Robin Singh, the national team coach, must feel like he is shopping in Ned Flanders’ Leftorium whenever it comes to selecting teams.

Ahmed Raza is the national team captain, and the first name on the teamsheet. Sultan Ahmed has one of the most miserly economy rates in T20 international history, and has been contracted to Lahore Qalandars in the Pakistan Super League.

Aryan Lakra and Rahul Bhatia are a year or two senior. And Nilansh Keswani and Aayan Afzal Khan – Giyanani’s U19 colleagues - both have good credentials with the bat to go with their obvious merits with the ball.

Giyanani is sanguine about his prospects, though, pointing out that everyone among the battery of left-arm spinners has their own identity.

There are only limited spots in the team. How many left-arm spinners can you play?
UAE spinner Jash Giyanani

“It is in the blood of UAE cricket – every team has two left-arm spinners who are playing, and one more sitting out waiting for his chance who is probably good enough to make it as well,” Giyanani said.

“It is an art which is unique, and is something which allows you to bowl at all stages of the game. If you are good enough, you can reap rewards quite quickly.

“There are only limited spots in the team. How many left-arm spinners can you play? You can’t pick a team of 11 left-arm spinners.

“I think each of us in our own ways is different, even though we are all left-arm spinners. I just stick to what I can do, rather than looking at what the others can do.”

Coincidentally, Giyanani’s junior coach, who encouraged him to pursue the idea of representative cricket himself, was also a left-arm spinner. The youngster is grateful to the impact Gopal Jasapara, of G-Force Academy, had on him.

“Throughout he kept telling me, ‘You have an ability,’ and since then it was always my goal to make sure I played representative cricket,” Giyanani said. “Very early on, I decided this is what I wanted to do.”

More recently he has been coached at the ICC Academy, along with nine of the 15 players who were part of the UAE squad at the World Cup.

UAE players hold the trophy after beating Ireland by eight wickets to win the U19 World Cup Plate. Photo: ICC

Giyanani said the players felt a tight bond on tour in Trinidad and St Kitts, which was part of the reason they coped so admirably when the squad was struck by illness.

“We spoke in the team meeting and said we were playing for those guys who can’t play,” Giyanani said.

“They were down with Covid in their hotel rooms, and they wanted to be playing as much as we did.

“We knew they were supporting us and wanted us to get to the finals as well. We decided that in that game we were going to play for everyone who believes in us.

“That started with the three or four guys who were down with Covid, plus the support staff who had worked so hard throughout the tournament for us.”

Updated: February 10, 2022, 7:19 AM