Mohammed Usman backs Pro Bash to raise standards of UAE cricket

Marquee signing says: 'We need to keep playing at a good level regularly'

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UAE international Mohammed Usman believes the Pro Bash, Abu Dhabi’s first domestic franchise tournament, is a positive step towards reviving premier division cricket in the capital.

The left-hander is the marquee signing of the inaugural 25-over tournament which has seven franchises and is played Indian Premier League-style.

“I haven’t played in Abu Dhabi for three years because the premier division cricket hasn’t been here any more,” Usman said after his Abu Dhabi Dragons suffered a 106-run defeat to Chennai Knights in their opener at the Al Ain Cricket Club grounds on Friday.

“I like the concept of the Pro Bash as it provides the premier division players in Abu Dhabi the opportunity to play at a good level.

“The teams are equally matched and competitive, as you saw in our game. It’s going to be a tough competition with the best team on the day to emerge the winner.”

Usman pointed out national team players are starved of decent opposition and the Pro Bash will help change that.

“Today we lost to a good team and that sums up the quality of the opposition and the quality of the competition,” Usman added, after his team were bundled out for 76 in reply to the Knights' 185 for nine.

“A majority of the players in this competition have been playing in the premier division and I’m glad they have got an opportunity to play at a good level again. The team we played against batted well and bowled at the right areas to win.”

Usman, batting at No 4, could only muster 12 off 21 balls and was sixth out at 47 after his side lost three wickets for five runs.

“The Pro Bash is a great initiative and I wish there’ll be more, not just in Abu Dhabi, but across the country. I would also love to see if some organisation start 50 over-A-side cricket. Even 40 overs, but a longer format than the T20.”

The Bukhatir League, the oldest premier tournament conducted by the Sharjah Cricket Council, is currently the only 50-over tournament in the country.

The domestic premier division game suffered a severe blow when all leading team owners in the country decided to shut in 2015, resulting in the gradual demise of top-flight competitions.

Al Ain, United Arab Emirates - Mohammed Usman (47) with his Dragons team celebrating after a score at the cricket match between Dragons vs Chennai at Al Ain Cricket Club, Equestrian Shooting & Golf Club.  Ruel Pableo for The National

“The objective of the Pro Bash is to revive the premier competition in Abu Dhabi and I can only wish everyone, including some of my UAE teammates, can contribute by participating in the tournament,” Usman said.

The Pro Bash season two is already planning to include two UAE internationals in each team and an U19 emerging player to feature in the playing XI in every side.

“I love this idea and wish this is scheduled in all four emirates cricket is played,” he said referring to the governing bodies of cricket in Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai and Sharjah.

“As a national team player we need to keep playing at a good level regularly. There should be competition among the players and that’s the natural way to improve.”

Based in Ajman, Usman has lived in the country for more than eight years. He has been a contracted player of the ECB for the last three and-a-half years.

As a full time cricketer, he spends five days a week in training but lack of matches at the top flight was a massive setback.

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“Before the team owners decided to disband their squads, we played at a good level quite for almost eight to ten months of the year,” he pointed out.

“That’s not the case any more. Now we are struggling to get games. Obviously, there is an impact when you don’t play matches.

“Pro Bash has now offered us a new platform. I would have loved it even more had it been the longer format but 25 overs-a-side is not a bad idea. We get a little more time than the T20. But the bottom line is that we get to play in the top flight.”

After four games completed, the Knights top the table by virtue of a better run rate than Pakhtoon Blasters, Lahore Sikandars and Hyderabad Nawabs, who are all on two points each.

Pakhtoon Warriors, Abu Dhabi Dragons and Abu Dhabi Stars are still waiting to record their first points.

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