Ahmed Raza believes UAE deserve praise for getting as close as they did to T20 World Cup qualification, given the troubles that have followed them over the past two weeks.
The national team’s dreams of playing at the tournament in Australia in 12 months’ time finally died when they lost a last-chance eliminator match to Scotland by 90 runs in Dubai on Wednesday.
The match coincided with the deadline for three UAE players – Mohammed Naveed, Shaiman Anwar and Qadeer Ahmed – to respond to a variety of charges by the ICC for breaching cricket’s anti-corruption code.
Two more players, Ashfaq Ahmed and Ghulam Shabber, have also been suspended since the Qualifier started, for issues related to the corruption probe. Neither has been formally charged.
Given the backdrop, the national team had battled manfully to the point they had two shots at qualifying for the World Cup via play-offs on Tuesday and Wednesday.
However, they were first soundly beaten by eight wickets by the Netherlands, and then by Scotland 24 hours later at the Dubai International Stadium.
“If you are a leader, you prepare yourself to deal with stuff that is on the field and off the field,” said Raza, who was elevated to the captaincy when Naveed was banned.
“You become a part of the management group. Captaincy is not only about tactics, it is about man-management.
“I think myself and the whole support staff did exceedingly well to regroup after what happened off the field.
“I think we deserve a lot of credit for that, the management and the board, how we got everything together and made it to the play-offs.
“Unfortunately, there were two bad days for us, but I think we played a decent tournament.”
The defeat was a bitter one to swallow for Dougie Brown, the UAE coach, who had represented Scotland with distinction during his own playing days.
“I’m not going to lie, I’m feeling pretty low at the minute, but still proud of how the players have coped in the most trying of times,” Brown wrote on social media. “We’ve fought hard, but we have been punched once too often.”
Even Kyle Coetzer, the opposition captain, said he sympathised with the defeated host nation.
“We feel for the UAE right now,” said Coetzer. “After everything they’ve been through, to get where they have done has been an outstanding effort.”
Scotland were in control from the moment Coetzer won the toss and opted to bat first. The captain put on 87 for the first wicket with George Munsey, who set the tone with 65 off 43 balls.
Although Munsey’s progress was halted by a stunning catch by Rameez Shahzad, Scotland barely missed a beat.
Richie Berrington flayed 48 from 18 balls, as they amassed 198 for five from their 20 overs.
Although Rameez briefly railed against the inevitable, making 34 from 28 balls, UAE slumped to 108 all out.
“There was certainly an element of relief,” Coetzer said. “It is clear to see that we haven’t played our best cricket. Conditions over here tend to be slightly challenging for us, and our record here isn’t as good as we would hope.
“But at the end of the day, we managed to get over the line, which we feel very fortunate to do.
“We have been on the receiving end in this T20 Qualifier before in Dubai, when we lost out on run rate.
“The Zimbabwe [50-over World Cup] Qualifier, we were knocked out because of [Duckworth-Lewis, against West Indies].
“In some ways, I think we earned this. We haven’t played the cricket we wanted to, but I think we earned this and deserved it.”