SHARJAH // Mohammed Tauqir, the captain of the World Cup-bound UAE cricket team, is confident they can cause a few surprises at next month’s tournament and improve on their performance at the 1996 edition of the sport’s premier event.
Making their World Cup debut 19 years ago in the Indian subcontinent, the UAE had struggled against the Test-playing nations in their six-team Group B, but did return home with a win after defeating the Netherlands by seven wickets in the battle of the minnows.
Tauqir is confident they can do better this time in Australia and New Zealand, his optimism stemming from the UAE’s progress since the appointment of Pakistan great Aaqib Javed as coach in 2012.
“The kind of practice and training we have been going through and the way the team has shaped up overall under Aaqib Javed’s coaching, I believe it is not going to be impossible to win one or two matches,” said Tauqir, who visited the Victoria International School Sharjah (VISS) on Tuesday to give a coaching clinic to the students.
“As a team, we are very confident. We had a good tour of Australia and we beat Afghanistan 3-1 in a recent series. We did well against Pakistan A as well, beating them in two of the five matches.”
The UAE have been placed in a tough Group B, which includes defending champions India, as well as Pakistan, the West Indies and one of the pre-tournament favourites, South Africa.
The Emiratis begin their campaign against Zimbabwe on February 19 before meeting fellow Associate members Ireland on February 26 in their second game. Tauqir said he believes his team should fancy their chances in these two matches.
“Looking at our group, the Test playing nations are the toughest ones but, realistically, our target is to win at least two matches,” he said. “No disrespect to any teams; I know all of them are very, very good teams, but cricket is a very funny game and anything can happen.”
The UAE will face India in their third match of the tournament on February 28, then Pakistan on March 4, and Tauqir is really excited about those two matches. He made his one-day International debut against India at the 2004 Asian Cup in Sri Lanka and scored a 55 coming in to bat at No 8.
“I basically started watching the game back in the 1980s when India and Pakistan were coming here to play at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium,” Tauqir said. “That’s where the interest started from and soon I started playing.
“So, honestly, it was my dream to play against India and Pakistan – and I have played against them, but not at a World Cup.
“So, of course, this is a dream come true for me. I am very excited and looking forward to it.”
Tauqir is also excited about the future of cricket in the country, looking at the increase in facilities available here and the enthusiasm among the kids at schools, such as the VISS.
“When I was young, there were not as many opportunities as today’s kids have,” Tauqir said. “There are amazing facilities, amazing grounds and academies. When I look around now, I think we have better facilities than a lot of Test playing nations.
“That’s amazing and it’s great for any youngster wanting to take up the game now. But, of course, they need to work hard to achieve their dreams and goals.”
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