The UAE might not have qualified for this year’s Cricket World Cup, but two of their players may yet still have some sort of involvement – as part of Australia’s extended ranks.
Ahmed Raza and Imran Haider are scheduled to re-join the Australia squad when they arrive later this month to play five one-day internationals against Pakistan in the UAE.
The two UAE national team spin bowlers assisted the tourists with their training during the Test and Twenty20 series played here towards the end in 2018.
They must have made a strong impression. Australia’s management had even asked if the duo could fly to India to provide extra spin-bowling practice during their on-going series against Virat Kohli’s side.
Administrative issues prevented that from happening, but Raza said they were glad to have been thought of at all.
“It would have been nice to have been with them in India as well, which was another opportunity that came towards us, but the visa process was taking too long,” said Raza, the Sharjah-born left-arm spinner.
“[It] is a great thing because there is definitely no shortage of spinners in India as well – but they wanted me and Imran over there.
“That is a huge credit to the work we put in with them, with the Test team when they were here, so it is a great thing.”
It is understood that Australia might be interested in having the two spinners training with them for some time during the World Cup in England, which starts at the end of May.
“It depends how we do,” Raza said. “If we can give our best and help them prepare for their series against Pakistan, maybe the World Cup would be a possibility.
“Everyone was very welcoming [when the two players had an extended involvement with the Australia camp in 2018], it was overwhelming, actually.
“As a finger-spinner, I look up to Nathan Lyon a lot. He was so open in his conversations with me, and the time he spent doing one-on-ones, it was so good – really overwhelming.”
The UAE and Australia teams have forged quite a relationship over the years. In 2014, Saqlain Haider took a break from his banking job in Dubai to keep wicket for Australia for a day during a tour match against Pakistan A.
Imran, a leg-spinner who will be employed to help Australia’s batsmen prepare for the challenge of facing Yasir Shah again, is grateful to have had the involvement with the touring side.
“It was a great journey with them,” Imran said. “The two weeks we spent with the Australia team really helped us a lot, and hopefully them also.
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“Obviously we are going to put more effort in for them this time. They were very kind. Their behaviour was top class. They even took us into team meetings, and that was very nice of them.”
The UAE national team have a busy schedule themselves over the coming weeks, in the form of limited-overs series against the United States, then practice matches against English county sides Surrey and Lancashire.
But coach Dougie Brown will be delighted to release his two spin bowlers to work with Australia whenever they are not needed for UAE duty.
“We have specified which games they need to be available for,” Brown said.
“They will be working with the Australians over that period of time, and getting some pretty good white-ball practice, to a point where they will travel with them on game days, almost part of an extended squad.
“That is really exciting. We talk about learning from people, and that is a great environment to be in.
“I’m sure they will come back in and put in some performances on the back of any opportunities they get.”