Every day over three weeks, The National looks back at the 21 greatest moments in UAE sports history.
Winning qualification for the 1996 World Cup was arguably the greatest moment ever for cricket in this country.
It should have been the start of something big. In truth, though, the win at the 1994 ICC Trophy turned out to be a pyrrhic victory, a harbinger of misfortune rather than the foundation for something lasting.
The team went to the World Cup on the subcontinent two years later, and did manage a win, against the Netherlands.
Twenty-four years later, that remains the national team’s lone success on the biggest stage.
To the wider cricket world, the one salient memory of the UAE at that tournament is a blemish.
Captain Sultan Zarawani went out to bat against the great Allan Donald wearing a sunhat rather than helmet. He was promptly hit on the head by a bouncer.
The UAE took the best part of two decades to make it back to major global competition, namely the 2014 T20 World Cup, followed a year later by the 50-over version.
The failure to consolidate on winning the ICC Trophy – which was the previous name for what is now the Qualifier – is an aberration.
Of the first six editions of the ICC Trophy, the UAE were the only winners not to go on to be made a full member of the ICC.
Sri Lanka won the first version of that competition in 1979, and were elevated to cricket’s top table in short order thereafter. Zimbabwe won it three times in a row to persuade the powers-that-be to do the same with them.
And, after UAE’s win in 1994, Bangladesh won the next Trophy and were rushed into the Test elite, too.
It meant UAE were overlooked for all the entitlements that go with promotion, the right to play Tests against the game’s top stars, and significant extra funding.
That despite the fact the UAE has facilities that are envy of many Test nations, and a vast, cricket-loving population. The national team even share premises with cricket’s global governing body now, too.
All of that being said, the 1994 Trophy win can stand alone among the most glorious moments for cricket in the game here. Perhaps even at the very top.
The main goal – qualification for a subcontinent World Cup that represented a return home for many of the players – was achieved by the time they reach the semi-final stage.
They finished with a flourish, too, thanks largely to the bat of Mohammed Ishaq.
The Lahore-born batsman is a further personification of the idea that ill luck followed this team around in the years after the Trophy win.
Ishaq is now wheelchair-bound after a car crash while on Umrah in Saudi Arabia that rendered him paraplegic.
His scrapbook at his home in Abu Dhabi is packed full with memories of his UAE playing days, with that Trophy win taking pride of place.
He took the side to the final with 72 not out in the six-wicket win over the Netherlands. Then he earned the man of the match award for scoring 51 in a nervy run-chase that gave UAE a two-wicket, final-over win against Kenya – and the title.