Four UAE cricketers who are due to join up with some of the world’s leading Twenty20 players at the Global T20 in Canada are facing a race to reach there in time.
Ahmed Raza, Rohan Mustafa, Mohammed Naveed and Shaiman Anwar were due to fly to Toronto from Dubai on Monday. However, each of them is still in the UAE because of a delay in processing their visas.
The first matches in the new, six-team tournament are set to be played on Thursday, June 28. Mustafa, the UAE captain, and Naveed, the fast bowler, have been drafted to Toronto Nationals, who face Vancouver Knights in the opening match at 4pm (12am UAE time) on Thursday.
Emirates and Air Canada both operate a direct route from Dubai to Toronto. The players are hoping their administrative issues will be sorted in time for them to take the 14-hour flight, across eight time zones, on Wednesday to make it for the start of the event.
Other Pakistani nationals, such as Babar Hayat from Hong Kong, as well as some Pakistan-based players, are also understood to be facing a similar issue.
Of the UAE contingent, the hold-up is particularly frustrating for Raza, given it would be his first appearance in a competition of this ilk.
While Naveed, Shaiman and Mustafa all experienced the T10 League in Sharjah last year, which involved a variety of household names from the international game, Raza was overlooked for that event.
Naveed and Mustafa have also played in T20 competitions as overseas professionals in Hong Kong and Nepal respectively.
Raza is due to play in an Edmonton Royals side captained by Shahid Afridi, with Chris Lynn, Luke Ronchi and Mohammed Irfan also part of the squad.
“We are all stuck, and don’t know what is happening,” Raza said. “We are waiting and we cannot do anything else.
“This was not happening for me before. Now, a tournament like this is in your sights, and this issue happens.”
The players applied for their visas last week, and say they were given assurances their submissions would be fast tracked. As of Monday afternoon, though, their applications were still under process.
Mustafa is still optimistic the players will reach Canada in time, for an 18-day competition that is also set to have the likes of Chris Gayle, Darren Sammy, Dwayne Bravo and David Warner involved.
The UAE's leading cricketers could be set for more opportunities to play franchise limited-overs cricket next season. The T10 League is due to return next winter, while plans are also in place for a new, UAE-run T20 competition, too.
The national team’s focus is on qualifying for the Asia Cup, which will be played in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in September and involve the likes of India and Pakistan, via a tournament in Malaysia at the end of August.
Mustafa hopes the event in Canada will help provide some valuable cricket ahead of a busy campaign.
“We want to play good cricket as this will help us a lot,” Mustafa said. “The Asia qualifiers are coming up at the end of August and playing in a competition like this should help us a lot. We don’t know what will happen now.”