Time is now for UAE to let youth cricketers bloom

The failure to qualify for next year’s World T20 in India should at least provide a little breathing space to blood these sorts of players.

While an ageing UAE side played at the World Twenty20 Qualifier, youngsters such as Rohit Singh have been restricted to playing domestic cricket. Pawan Singh / The National
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The national cricket team had not been used to failure in recent years. Between Aaqib Javed’s appointment as head coach in March 2012 and the start of 2015, the graph charting progress was in sharp, seemingly inexorable, ascent.

The team played at two major events – the 2014 World Twenty20 and this year’s World Cup.

New funding streams meant specialist support staff could be appointed, while central contracts and a national academy could be seriously pondered for the first time.

All was well with the world.

Now, the reality check.

It is hard not to react strongly to the listless, first-round exit in the World T20 qualifier in Scotland, which was confirmed – in appropriately bleak fashion – with yesterday’s washout against Oman.

To suggest the dire performance of the team in the UK was a one-off, an aberration, or a blip would be wilfully ignorant.

Since the national team set off for their big adventure in Australia and New Zealand in March, they have an abysmal ­record. Across all serious cricket in that time, the team have played 15 times for two wins and 13 defeats.

Granted, some of the opposition in that time includes South Africa, Australia and India.

But the returns against less-gilded opponents have been pitiful, too. They were beaten by an innings in a four-day game against Ireland and the only win taken from the World T20 Qualifier was against a Canadian side who are pointless in the competition.


It would be excusable if the side overseeing the current run of form was full of raw youngsters who the powers-that-be regard as having the talent to bring about change in the future.

But that is patently not the case. The average age of the side at the qualifier has been above 31. Against Ireland, in the four-day match, it was an archaic 35.

Where are the likes of Chirag Suri, Waruna Perera or Rohit Singh? The UAE is not short of young talent, but it will never bloom if it is not given its chance at the highest level.

The failure to qualify for next year’s World T20 in India should at least provide a little breathing space to blood these sorts players. In the absence of any realistic immediate targets, they must be given their head.

It was always obvious the time immediately following Khurram Khan’s retirement was going to be tough.

Khurram even expressed his anguish on social media during the qualifier. “[It] really hurts to see what is happening in the team,” he wrote.

The UAE’s greatest cricketer, who hung up his boots this summer, was a unique influence. But a country with the enviable cricketing resources of the UAE should never be a one-man team.

At one time, there seemed to be some sort of succession plan for life after Khurram, who led the side for most of the past decade.

Clearly, his runs would be difficult to replicate, but at least the captaincy issue appeared to be sorted.

In the last one-day international the UAE played before going to the World Cup, Ahmed Raza filled in for Khurram as captain.

The Sharjah-born spin bowler oversaw a comfortable win against a strong Afghanistan side at the end of 2014.

It was the latest in a line of impressive leadership outings for a player who was seen as the captain’s heir apparent.

Then Mohammed Tauqir usurped Khurram as captain for the World Cup, Raza was omitted from the squad and the succession plan has been out of kilter ever since.

Raza, recalled to the squad and still the nominated vice captain, played just one match at the qualifier. He bowled 24 balls over the course of a month.

While Tauqir, at age 43, was overseeing the decisive loss to Kenya – and not even bringing himself on to bowl – Raza was sitting on the sidelines pondering the future.

UAE cricket, as a whole, is doing similar and the perspective is not clear. If the national team is going to continue the advances made up until 2015, the future must start now.


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