Hosting World Twenty20 qualifying brings big demands for UAE cricket

UAE set to host 90 international matches within three weeks

Khurram Khan and the UAE are expected to compete for a place at next year's World Twenty20 in Bangladesh. Satish Kumar / The National
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SHARJAH // No wonder Mohammed Jamil was wearing such a worried look on his face as he watched on from his chair at the boundary’s edge at Sharjah Stadium on Monday.

The long-serving groundsman at the UAE’s oldest cricket venue was having a well-earned sit down.

But he probably just wanted the players from Pakistan and South Africa to move so he could get cracking on preparing his ground for the coming onslaught.

In the 18 days between now and November 30, the UAE’s three centres for cricket will stage 90 international matches involving teams ranging from South Africa and Pakistan to Papua New Guinea and Italy.

By December, Jamil and Tony Hemming and Mohan Singh, his colleagues in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, respectively, will have earned a rest.

UAE cricket’s resources are being pushed to such limits that some of the members of the national team’s regular coaching staff are having to forego their duties with the players to act as liaisons for the visiting teams instead.

For all the logistical worries the World Twenty20 Qualifier throws up, at least the chance to glimpse international cricket’s new world might bring with it some excitement – and some supporters, too.

Monday’s attendance in Sharjah was paltry, which is entirely forgivable given it was a dead rubber being played on a workday, while the nominal home team have flattered to deceived of late, anyway.

The International Cricket Council have scheduled one of the guaranteed showpiece fixtures for the pool stage, the encounter between Nepal and Afghanistan, to be played in Sharjah on the afternoon of Friday, November 22.

There are certain to be more fans at that game than there were to see the likes of Hashim Amla, Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal in action yesterday. Such is the popularity cricket now holds in emerging nations, particularly those in Asia.

Players such as Mohammed Nabi, Mohammed Shahzad and Paras Khadka may not be household names beyond cricket’s mainstream just yet, but they do have a significant following.

For Khadka and his Nepal side, in particular, this could be the coming-of-age tournament they have promised for some years now.

“It means everything to us. We want to [qualify for the World T20 in Bangladesh] as we have worked very hard to be here,” the Nepal captain said.

“We are hungry to get to the top and compete against the Full Members in the pinnacle of Twenty20 cricket.”

The top six sides in this 16-team competition in the UAE qualify to play against cricket’s most celebrated players in Bangladesh next year.

Accepting the fact Afghanistan and Ireland are virtually sure to go through, so far ahead of their rivals are they at this level, Nepal will likely vie with UAE, among others, for the remaining places up for grabs.

The two sides meet in a warm-up fixture in Dubai on Tuesday.

“The shortest format of the game is probably the most unpredictable and that means you can’t write off any team, we simply have to play our best cricket,” Khurram Khan, the UAE captain, was quoted as saying.

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