Success of Shiraz Ahmed and others at Abu Dhabi T10 helps lift gloom hanging over UAE cricket

Corruption scandal involving six players before the start of the tournament had left the national team reeling. Now, they can look forward to upcoming ODI series against Scotland and USA with renewed optimism

The Aldar Properties Abu Dhabi T10 was just the sort of distraction UAE cricket needed.

The tournament, which reached a climax with a final played in front of over 20,000 people on Sunday, followed on from a bleak T20 World Cup qualifying tournament for the national team.

The fact they failed to qualify for that felt like the least of the problems back then.

For the foreseeable future at least – more likely, permanently – the national team will be without six leading players as a result of a corruption probe by the ICC.

As that news emerged gradually, the atmosphere surrounding the game here was woeful.

And then along came the T10. Now, a number of players will be looking ahead to the World Cup League one-day international series against Scotland and United States next month with a pep in their step.

Six players might need replacing, but, on the evidence of the 10-over tournament, the cupboard is far from bare.

Take it from Andy Flower, the former Ashes-winning England coach who was in charge of the victorious Maratha Arabians side in the T10.

“It is a brilliant thing that UAE players are playing such a part in the tournament,” Flower said, ahead of the final.

“It is really important for this region that the UAE players get exposure in the media, but also the experience of playing in front of crowds and playing on TV.

“And playing with some really great players. All the coaches I have spoken to have enjoyed having the UAE players play a part in this tournament.”

Since its inception in 2017, the T10 league has had a rule that says at least two members of each squad must be UAE-qualified players. One must play in each starting XI.

Back when the tournament started, the home-based help were hardly trusted. They were given a starting berth, then told to field.

Three seasons on, and the players are being increasingly trusted. Or the bowlers are, at least.

Five of the eight teams in the 2019 T10 used their UAE player to bowl important overs.

Rohan Mustafa was termed Team Abu Dhabi's "trump card" by his captain Moeen Ali early in the tournament.

Ahmed Raza was man of the match for his left-arm spin for Karnataka Tuskers in an early fixture.

Sultan Ahmed was given the responsibility of opening the bowling for Qalandars, while Zahoor Khan, in one match, sent down 10 dot balls out of the 12 deliveries he bowled for Deccan Gladiators.

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Abu Dhabi T10 team of the tournament

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All of those are established internationals. The one who is not, Shiraz Ahmed, was the discovery of the tournament for his left-arm pace-bowling for the winning team.

“I think the trust is building, but the responsibility comes down to us guys who are playing and getting the opportunity, to showcase UAE talent,” Raza, the UAE captain, said.

“That is how you earn respect and trust, and hopefully next season there will be a few more UAE players doing more crucial roles – bowling death overs, or batting higher up the order.

“These players will increase in the coming seasons.”

This tournament even saw two teams – Qalandars and Deccan Gladiators – field two UAE-qualified players each towards the latter stage of the tournament for the first time.

Asif Khan made his debut in the final for Deccan, and ended up the top scorer in a batting line up that included Mohammed Shahzad, Shane Watson and Kieron Pollard.

“Talent is there everywhere,” Dwayne Bravo, the captain of Maratha Arabians, said.

“In UAE, players don’t have much exposure to playing with international players.

“They will make mistakes at times, and it is important you encourage them and keep backing them.

“You can see with the talent they have they need good people around them to give them confidence. They are all good players.”