Captain Ahmed Raza proud to wear the shirt as UAE cricket moves on from corruption scandal

Spin bowler inherited a side in disarray but remains optimistic for the future

ABU DHABI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , October 19  – 2019 :- Ahmed Raza of UAE during the World Cup T20 Qualifiers between UAE v Ireland held at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.  ( Pawan Singh / The National )  For Sports. Story by Amith
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Ahmed Raza says he remains proud to wear the UAE shirt and insists the national team have already moved on from the corruption scandal that engulfed the game in the country.

The Sharjah-born spin bowler was installed as captain when Mohammed Naveed was suspended from the game in October 2019 on corruption charges.

He inherited a side in crisis, with Naveed thrown out along with Shaiman Anwar and Qadeer Ahmed ahead of the T20 World Cup Qualifier tournament.

UAE entered that tournament as the second highest-ranked side, and were well fancied to make it to the World Cup.

However, their prospects rapidly diminished. The loss of the banned trio on the eve of the event was followed by a suspension for Ashfaq Ahmed for similar reasons after two matches of the tournament.

The situation reached its nadir when Ghulam Shabber, the team’s wicketkeeper, fled the country in the middle of the night and flew to Pakistan.

Naveed, as well as senior batsman Shaiman, were banned from the sport for eight years on Tuesday after being found guilty of offences that included conspiring to fix aspects of international matches.

According to Alex Marshall, the general manager of the ICC’s integrity department, the duo had performed a “cynical betrayal of their positions, their teammates, and all supporters of UAE cricket”.

Qadeer and Ashfaq are still awaiting the conclusions of their cases. Amir Hayat, a former national team bowler, is also banned pending the investigation. Shabber has not been charged, but is understood to be a subject of the investigation.

In the 18 months since that tournament, Raza has helped oversee the re-emergence of the national team, with a new-look side full of promising young talent.

He says there is “zero tolerance” to corruption, and wants the team to make news for itself for positive reasons.

"The ICC ACU works tirelessly to keep the corrupters away from our amazing sport and they've done a good job," Raza told The National.

“Disappointing as it was at the time, we've moved on and heading in the right direction with the right people.

“We've won four out of our last five ODIs, including a win over a Test playing nation.

“I take a lot of pride in wearing UAE on my chest, and would always want our team to be in the news for the right reasons. For me personally there is zero tolerance in this matter.”

After the beleaguered side failed to make it the World Cup, Dougie Brown was subsequently replaced as the team’s coach.

Robin Singh, Brown’s replacement, says it remains a privilege to represent the UAE at cricket.

“Such matters have been discussed thoroughly to make sure the players fully understand the dangers, to the organisation and themselves as individuals, and to stay away from any unscrupulous engagements or persons,” Singh said.

“We have zero tolerance and will not compromise on this in any way, shape or form, it has been reiterated that it is an honour and of great pride to wear and play in the national colours.

“It is good the ICC takes these steps to eradicate such negative and damaging influences in our sport.

“UAE cricket is in a building process, and our focus is on what we want to achieve moving forward, for the good of the players and the game.”