Five things new UAE head cricket coach Paul Franks must address
DUBAI // Paul Franks officially started his tenure as the “interim UAE head coach” on Sunday. Not that he and his new charges on the national team will have needed much of an introduction.
The Englishman was popular with the players during his two spells as assistant to Aaqib Javed, the previous UAE coach who left at the end of May.
He has been recruited to oversee one four-day Intercontinental Cup tie, and two 50-over World Cricket League fixtures, in Scotland next month.
What did Franks find in his in-tray when he returned to Dubai, on loan from his English county club Nottinghamshire? There are five key things he must address if he is to add value in his spell in charge.
Reverse the trend
UAE cricket reached its zenith under Aaqib, in qualifying for last year’s 50-over World Cup. Since then, form has been alarmingly bad.
All matches were lost in Australia and New Zealand. Perhaps most worryingly, Hong Kong trounced the home side in all formats in a series in Dubai at the end of 2015.
Apart from three wins at the Asia Cup Twenty20 and a historic one over Ireland in Abu Dhabi, results over the past 18 months have been bleak.
Franks does not have much time to arrest the slide. They leave for the UK in a couple of weeks.
The national team were a point off qualifying directly to the last World Cup, finishing third behind Ireland and Afghanistan in the World Cricket League.
Of the nine wins achieved in the 14 match league back then, only three arrived outside the UAE.
They did prove they can win in alien conditions, by reaching the World Cup via a repechage competition staged in New Zealand, with a strong seam attack.
They need to rediscover the formula that brought that success in Scotland next month.
Fix the batting
Since Khurram Khan and Saqib Ali retired, there has been a cavernous hole in the UAE middle order.
When they were around, the batting was as tough as teak. Since they left, it has just been weak.
Like Aaqib, Mudassar Nazar and Saqib Ali, each of whom acted as batting consultants at various times, have also gone. Franks will have to find some solutions on his own.
He needs to impress on the likes of Rameez Shahzad, Laxman Sreekumar and Mohammed Usman, in particular, the need to value their wickets like Khurram did.
Wrap Naveed in cotton wool
Mohammed Naveed leads the pace attack with pace, skill, and infectious enthusiasm. When he was absent at the turn of 2016 due to a groin injury, the UAE’s bowling lacked a cutting edge.
Upon his return, he bowled the team to unanticipated success in the Asia Cup, thrilling crowds in Bangladesh in wins over Afghanistan, Oman and Hong Kong.
He then troubled Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan, to put him in the shop window for recruitment for overseas T20 leagues.
Aaqib is almost certain to snap him up for the Lahore Qalandars, his new employers in the Pakistan Super League.
If the UAE are to win in Scotland and beyond, they need Naveed to be firing.
Commit long term. Please
The past 18 months have been poor. But the UAE have played at relatively rarified levels of competition since the start of 2015.
They have lost nine matches to Test nations in that time. Yes, a defeat counts the same whoever it was against, but the fact they are having more matches against those opponents shows the level the national team have reached.
Far better to struggle at a higher level than to bob along, merely existing, lower down the echelons.
That was the lot of the UAE not so long ago. Years of stasis were fuelled by short-termism. Abey Kuruvilla, Vasbert Drakes and Colin Wells all counted their stewardships in weeks rather than years. As a result, the side got no closer to where it wanted to go.
Part of Aaqib’s success was born from the long-term commitment he made to it. His full-time replacement has to do the same if cricket here is going to progress.
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Published: July 10, 2016 04:00 AM