New UAE cricket captain Ahmed Raza relishes leadership role ahead of Netherlands match

The UAE have their first official assignment of 2016 with a series against the Netherlands in Abu Dhabi this month, starting with the four-day Intercontinental Cup on Thursday.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates- October, 27,2014:  Ahmed Raza of UAE in action Pakistan 'A' at the ICC Global academy at the Dubai Sports City in Dubai . ( Satish Kumar / The National )  For Sports
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DUBAI // Ahmed Raza, the UAE captain, says he is relishing the prospect of having to lead the rebuilding of the national team from the front.

The UAE are in the throes of transition after a disappointing 2015 concluded with a number of leading players retiring from national duty.

They have their first official assignment of 2016 with a series against the Netherlands in Abu Dhabi this month, starting with the four-day Intercontinental Cup on Thursday.

Raza, who has been around the side for nearly a decade, despite having only turned 27 in October, says the onus will be on him to perform. “It feels good but it is a responsibility as well,” Raza, the Sharjah-born left-arm spinner.

“I cannot hide behind anyone now. My performances need to be up there so that the players can look up to me. In difficult situations they should think I can get them out of it.

“The responsibility is more, but I enjoy it. I have always enjoyed leading UAE. It is an honour and there is no added pressure. I have been doing that for the past few years, so I am relishing this moment.”

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Raza’s side endured a chastening experience during his first series in charge, as they were thrashed in all formats by Hong Kong at the end of last year.

That side was an experimental one, though, and the 14-man squad to face the Netherlands includes the return of a variety of experienced campaigners.

Manjula Guruge, Rohan Mustafa and Saqlain Haider, who all played at the World Cup last year, are back, as is all-rounder Mohammed Shahzad.

“This squad is much more settled,” Raza said. “They are good players, we have played together a lot. It is good to have them back. It is really tough when you have seven or eight debutants coming into a series.

“It is much more settled and balanced. We are looking forward to getting some better results, because at the end of the day, that is what matters for me and for the country.”

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