UAE coach Dougie Brown has praised the Emirates Cricket Board's attempts to provide a more professional environment for young players to establish themselves.
The ECB's National Academies Under 17 League is now in its third year while an U14 competition is to be introduced this season. There are more young players registered to play cricket in the UAE than ever and Brown, coach of the senior men's team, says that can only be good for the national team.
“It’s really important the best players play against the best players,” Brown said.
“That way, performance can be gauged if you don’t know what standard of cricket you are playing in then you don’t know what performance is.
“We are starting put things into place and hopefully we can continue to develop the platforms.
“Nobody gets the right to play for a national side because that should be an honour and a privilege, and that needs to align with the people who are performing.
“We want to make sure we got almost an oversupply of young players coming through, and as and when there is an opportunity for them to play, then they can just fit in.
“Internally we have some plans and actions around the visions as a team. We know where we want to get to.”
Fahad Nawaz, 18, Rahul Bhatia, 19, and UK-based duo Yodhin Punja, 19, and Jonathan Figy, 17 are direct beneficiaries of the ECB's approach and all have gone on to represent the national team at age group.
At 16 Punja became the youngest player to represent the UAE senior team, against Hong Kong IN 2016, in both First Class and one-day internationals, while Nawaz and Bhatia have previously been included in the senior squad but are yet to play.
"Fahad has been in the system and he's been involved in the last 3-4 months," Brown said after seeing the senior team lose a one-off T20 International to Australia at the Abu Dhabi Oval on Monday.
“He’s coming on really well as a young player. That really is exciting for me because we have some really good young players like Yodhin, who has just got into the MCCU [Maryleborne Cricket Club University] system.
“Jonathan and Rahul are the other two. These four are players we know are moving forward. It’s very important we give these guys the opportunities which is to get involved in the professional setup because the more they get involved the quicker they learn.”
Previously many young cricketers had to leave the country because of immigration rules stipulating those over the age of 18 were not permitted to remain in the country under the sponsorship of their parents unless they enrolled in a university based in the UAE.
Chirag Suri, 23, who has established himself as an opening batsman for the national team, is the only player to remain in the country from the UAE’s U19 World Cup squad which the UAE hosted in 2014.
Punja joined Cardiff Metropolitan University in September and Figy moved to Winchester College on a cricket scholarship last year.
“We know the system they are in and the standard of cricket they are playing,” added Brown, a former England and Scotland all-rounder.
“We touch base with their coaches. In the case of Yodhin, I can touch base with the coaches in the UK whom I know, to put together a programme we can both be working towards [to help] their development over the course of the next two or three years.
“And in-between we are hopeful they will come back to the UAE as and when holidays permit, to get involved, firstly in domestic cricket and secondly to be in a professional environment that we are going to have.
“We do have to see younger players coming in and need to find them a platform to get involved in a professional environment. That’s what we are trying to do, try and professionalise cricket in the UAE."
Following Monday's seven-wicket defeat to Australia in the capital, the UAE next T20 assignment sees them take on New Zealand on Sunday.
“Then we’ll be working towards our own domestic T10 and the T20 competitions and prepare for the Emerging Teams Nations Cup, which is another opportunity to play some really high quality opposition,” Brown said.
“That’s going to be sometime in December but it’s still to be confirmed. But any opportunity to play against teams better than us is to our advantage. That’s where we learn.”
Also in this episode:
- Dougie Brown and Ahmed Raza air their views on the UAE's Twenty20 match against Australia in Abu Dhabi.
- Can the Australians sort out their issues before the all-important home series against India? We discuss.
- We also take a look at how the UAE will benefit from the ICC's restructuring of one-day internationals.
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