UAE's cricket future: Seven players to lead the national team into a new era

After the loss of five leading players to suspension, it feels like a watershed moment, a chance to regenerate, and invest in youth

DUBAI,  UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , May 3 – 2019 :- Vriitya Aravind from UAE celebrating after scoring his half century during the final of ACC Under 19 Western Region cricket match between UAE vs Kuwait held at Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For News. Story by Paul

Ahead of UAE’s last-chance eliminator match against Scotland in the T20 World Cup Qualifier on Wednesday, a significant comparison was made.

It was noted that Scotland had 10 players still in the side from the 11 that faced UAE in the same tournament four years earlier. The UAE, by contrast, had none. Not one. In four years, the team had been totally overhauled.

Reasons for the upheaval are many and varied – retirements, loss of form, players leaving the country, and, just lately, the sinister fallout of a corruption scandal.

The provision of professional contracts for the first time three years ago went some way to creating greater consistency of selection in the game here. But there is still a larger than average turnover of players – even before the corruption probe.

Yes, this is a transient region, but sides benefit from stability. Scotland, for example, are on an upward curve that has included wins over three Full Member countries in recent times, most notably when they beat the world’s number one side England.

After the loss of five leading players to suspension, it feels like a watershed moment for the national team, a chance to regenerate, and invest in youth.

Here are some of the players they might consider pinning their hopes on.

Darius D’Silva

Dubai-born, but living in Western Australia since he was 11. Now 21, he was a late replacement in the UAE team for the T20 World Cup Qualifier, having debuted against Netherlands in the summer. A student, he gets special dispensation to skip lectures in Perth if he is called up to play international cricket.

Vriitya Aravind

The 17-year-old wicketkeeper was called up during the Qualifier, after Ghulam Shabber went absent without leave. He did not play as the national team persisted with the occasional wicketkeeper Mohammed Boota behind the stumps. The Kings Al Barsha schoolboy represents the future, though.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 05 AUGUST 2018. Cricketer Yodhin Punja is a fast bowler and has got a recall to the UAE senior national team pool. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Amith Pasella. Section: Business.

Ansh Tandon

Name-checked by Ahmed Raza, the UAE captain, in the aftermath of the defeat to Scotland, as one that could be ready for senior international cricket. The Delhi-born batsman, who turns 18 on November 8, scored a century against Sri Lanka when the UAE U19 side played at the Asia Cup in September.

Aryan Lakra

The captain of the U19 side will forever have a reminder of his exploits this year. After leading the side to World Cup qualification with a flurry of runs and wickets in April, the 17-year-old had a tattoo saying “carpe diem” inscribed on his arm. He is a highly-talented all-rounder who bowls left-arm spin.

Karthik Meiyappan

Took over the captaincy of the U19 side from the injured Lakra for the Asia Cup. Qasim Ali, his coach at the ICC Academy, described Meiyappan as “already one of the best leg-spinners in the country”, while Dom Telo, the UAE assistant coach, says he “is an extremely exciting young cricketer.”

ABU DHABI ,  UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , AUGUST 22 – 2019 :- Jonathan Figy, a former UAE age group player now playing for Winchester College in England during the interview at the Zayed Cricket Academy in Abu Dhabi. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For Sports. Story by Amith

Yodhin Punja

The seam-bowler is the youngest ever debutant for UAE, having been 16 when he played against Hong Kong in 2015. Now 20, he has played most of his cricket in the UK since, having gone there for school and now university. He dislocated his shoulder at the start of this year while on tour in South Africa with Cardiff University.

Jonathan Figy

Like Punja, Figy was an age-group prodigy in Abu Dhabi, before taking up a scholarship at a school in the UK. After breaking run-scoring records at Winchester, the 18-year-old left-hander has moved on to study for a degree at Leeds University.

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