UAE coach Dougie Brown says the prize on offer for success at the Asia Cup Qualifier in Malaysia is “as big as playing in a World Cup”.
The national team will vie with Nepal, Hong Kong, Oman, Malaysia and Singapore at the qualifying tournament in Kuala Lumpur, starting on August 29.
The winners will earn the right to play against the continent’s Test nations – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka – in the main event next month.
This Asia Cup has particular resonance for the UAE, given it will be played in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
In March, the national team missed out on qualifying for next year’s World Cup in the United Kingdom, despite a valiant showing at the Qualifier in Zimbabwe.
However, Brown believes the chance to play against Asia’s leading sides on home soil in the Asia Cup would be no less prestigious.
“We are going there knowing what is at the end of it,” Brown said, after an indoor net session at the ICC Academy on Monday.
“Playing back in Dubai, in the Asia Cup against the likes of India and Pakistan, for us it doesn’t get much bigger than that. It would be as big as playing in a World Cup.
“There is a lot riding on it, but we are trying to take that off the players and try to focus at one piece at a time. But it is difficult when that carrot is dangling in front of you.”
The established members of the UAE squad have been joined by a number of highly-regarded young players for training ahead of the tour to Malaysia.
Teenagers Yodhin Punja and Jonathan Figy have been part of the wider squad, after returning home to the UAE during summer holidays from their scholarships at school in the UK.
Training has even included fielding training outdoors in the middle of the day, braving temperatures of 45 degrees, as they ready themselves for the trip.
“We know it is going to be hot and humid in Malaysia as well, so we might as well embrace the conditions here in Dubai,” Brown said.
UAE are no strangers to their opposition in the Qualifier. They faced Oman and Nepal in the World Cricket League Division 2 in February, and played the Nepalese again as a pre-cursor to the World Cup Qualifier.
And Hong Kong were the highest-placed Asian side in the WCL Championship, between 2015-2017, a competition that also involved UAE and Nepal.
“We know there are some really good teams in Malaysia,” Brown said. “If we are going to come back to Dubai and play in the Asia Cup, we are going to have to have played some really good cricket.
“We have played these teams recently. Nepal have done well against us, Hong Kong is always a competitive game, Oman have some really good players.
“Our preparation has been really good and that is all we can judge anything on. It is so hot here, we don’t get the chance to go outside and play much cricket, but our preparation has been excellent.”