When the captains of UAE and Namibia meet for the toss ahead of their vital Cricket World Cup League 2 encounter in Dubai on Thursday, they might shake hands and think: “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”
Somewhere very similar, in fact. Less than two weeks ago, they had celebrated victory together in the DP World International League T20 on the very same field.
Now, though, CP Rizwan and Gerhard Erasmus will be plotting against each other, in the colours of UAE and Namibia respectively.
A competition which started three-and-a-half years ago is suddenly reaching boiling point. In Namibia’s case, they have played 34 games already, leaving them which just two leftover fixtures against UAE to press their claim for direct entry to the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe this summer.
In turn, the top two sides in that tournament will advance to the main event in India, in October and November of this year.
UAE trail their guests by 10 points in the table, but do have 10 games remaining to them try to bridge the gap.
That includes four games, home and away, against Nepal, who are also in contention for the third qualifying berth, with Scotland and Oman already assured of the other two places.
It remains to be seen whether familiarity with his opposite number will be advantageous to either captain heading into the matches between UAE and Namibia this week.
Either way, Rizwan is grateful for the time he spent with Erasmus as part of the Gulf Giants squad in the ILT20.
Erasmus played a key role in winning that final against Desert Vipers at Dubai International Stadium on February 12, making 30 in the run chase, and excelling as a wicketkeeper, too.
He is even more essential to the cause of a Namibia side who arrived in Dubai having lost all four matches against Scotland and Nepal over the past two weeks.
“He is a top bloke with brilliant leadership qualities, and we got along really well,” Rizwan said of Erasmus.
“We shared very good moments on and off the field during our time together for Gulf Giants in the ILT20.
“And obviously we got to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses as we trained together for a month.”
Rizwan’s side are also resuming their League 2 campaign on the back of a series loss. However, their spirits were actually enhanced by the manner in which they played in their 2-1 T20I defeat to Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi at the weekend.
“They are very important and exciting series coming up for UAE cricket,” Rizwan said.
“The ODI league is really crucial, and we have to be at the top of our game. We have confidence and will try to take the positives [from the Afghanistan series].
“We will learn from the mistakes we made and execute our skillsets better, and put up a great show.”
UAE lost T20 series to Afghanistan
UAE’s players are aware they have been granted an unexpected opportunity by Namibia’s faltering display in Kathmandu.
However, Rizwan is wary of the advance Nepal are making, too, having won four ODIs in a row.
“It is a tricky situation to be in,” Rizwan said. “Namibia has been on the losing side, but Nepal are also coming up in the ranks.
“We have to be really cautious, and do well in the coming matches, but if we play to our potential, we know we can do very well.”
Robin Singh, the UAE coach, implored his players to maintain focus over the course of 10 ODIs in the space of 21 days, between Dubai and Kathmandu.
“We have a very demanding six weeks ahead and very clear goals to achieve, starting with securing the win in these two matches against Namibia,” Singh said.
“We need our batsmen to step up and deliver, and all our players to maintain a razor-sharp focus to achieve our goals.”