Cricket in turmoil: Where the UAE stands in bid to make the T20 World Cup
Suspended players on corruption charges, a wicketkeeper gone missing, and must-win matches; the story so far
The UAE cricket team’s bid to make it to the T20 World Cup in Australia next year has been enveloped by turmoil.
A 14-team qualification competition is being staged in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, with six places on offer for the main event in 2020.
The UAE started the competition as the second highest ranked team in it, and with expectations they would make it to Australia.
However, their prospects were damaged even before the start, when an ICC investigation into corruption led to the suspension of a number of leading players.
The 32-year-old fast-bowler was removed as the UAE captain and withdrawn from the squad on Thursday, October 10, after a practice match against Namibia in Dubai.
He had been escorted from the ICC Academy that evening by officers from the ICC’s anti-corruption operation.
Six days later, he was officially charged with two counts of breaching cricket’s anti-corruption code, essentially related to contriving to “fix or otherwise influence improperly the result” or other aspects of matches in the Qualifier.
He was also charged with two similar offences related to playing in the Abu Dhabi T10 League, and has been suspended from playing.
Naveed, who is recognised as one of the world’s leading bowlers beyond the elite Test-playing nations, subsequently said he has made a mistake that has “let everybody down”.
The highest-ranked UAE batsman in the ICC standings for T20 international cricket was handed similar charges to Naveed, on Wednesday, October 16.
This included contriving to influence improperly matches in the Qualifier and the Abu Dhabi T10 League, as well as failing to disclose “full details of any approaches or invitations received to engage in conduct in relation to the Qualifier that would amount to corrupt conduct under the [ICC anti-corruption code].”
Qadeer was the third player to be charged with breaching cricket’s anti-corruption code by the ICC on Wednesday, October 16, and was also suspended.
The seam bowler’s charge list includes six breaches of the code, dating back to cricket played in April this year.
They centre on failing to disclose details of approaches to engage in corrupt conduct, disclosing inside information that he knew could be used for betting purposes, and obstructing the ICC’s investigation.
The three players who have been charged by the ICC have until October 30 to respond, and Qadeer has suggested he will appeal.
Ashfaq, an opening batsman who was the player of the series in the UAE’s last engagement before the Qualifier, has yet to be formally charged for any wrongdoing.
However, he was provisionally suspended by the Emirates Cricket Board on Monday, having already played two matches in the Qualifier in Abu Dhabi.
“Further to the ongoing investigations led by the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit, Emirates Cricket Board has today provisionally suspended Ashfaq Ahmed with immediate effect,” the ECB said after the UAE’s third game of the tournament.
The UAE’s wicketkeeper failed to show up for a team meeting at 11am on Monday, and subsequently failed to board the team bus for the afternoon fixture against Hong Kong in the Qualifier.
A day later, the ECB said he had left the country without any explanation.
“We are obviously concerned for his well-being,” Peter Kelly, the UAE team manager said. “We went out of our way to contact any next of kin that we could, as well as any numbers we had for him.
“We also searched hospitals to make sure he was okay. We also got people to go and check if he was at home.”
Kelly said Shabber is not believed to be part of the ICC investigation into corruption.
The UAE are in fifth place in their seven-team group in the Qualifier, with only the top four advancing to the next phase.
They have won three matches and lost two, with their victory over Nigeria in Abu Dhabi on Thursday maintaining their hopes of making it to the World Cup.
Their final pool match is against unbeaten Canada at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on Sunday.
Updated: October 24, 2019 01:58 PM