UAE cricket: Yodhin Punja recalled as captain to boost 2018 World Cup bid

Yodhin Punja will return to the ranks of age-group cricket to lead the UAE’s bid for a place at the 2018 Under 19 World Cup.

Yodhin Punja, has been recalled to the UAE Under 19 side. Sarah Dea / The National
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DUBAI // Yodhin Punja will return to the ranks of age-group cricket to lead the UAE’s bid for a place at the 2018 Under 19 World Cup.

The Abu Dhabi-born seam-bowler is currently in the UK, having moved there to take up a sports scholarship at a boarding school.

He has been recalled to lead the UAE at the Under 19 World Cup Division 2 qualifier in Malaysia, after he was named as captain of the 16-man squad.

Despite being just 17, Punja has already played for the full national team in two first-class matches in the Intercontinental Cup, as well as a one-day international.

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His opportunities in the senior side have been somewhat limited. Injury kept him to just eight overs on his four-day debut against Hong Kong last year, while this month’s fixture in Scotland was all but entirely wiped out by rain.

Punja, though, has been part of the senior side’s extended squad for nearly two years now, though, after being called up by the former coach, Aaqib Javed.

He will aim to bring that experience to bear when the age-group side take their first step on the road to the 2018 tournament in New Zealand, when they play in Kuala Lumpur from September 26 to October 6.

If the UAE advance from the 10-team competition, they will reach Division 1, which is scheduled to be played in Sri Lanka in December. The winners of that competition will qualify to play in New Zealand in two years time.

The UAE have been drawn in a group with Kuwait, Hong Kong, Thailand and Oman.

“Preparations for the U19 tour have been underway since the beginning of June under the expert guidance of Dom Tello, Shah Hussain and Khurram Khan,” Waleed Bukhatir, the chief selector, said.

“We are encouraged with the progress of the players. We look forward to seeing their skills and team cohesiveness continue to strengthen over the next two-months leading into their departure.

“We are very happy to provide some very exciting talent with the opportunity to show us their skills under pressure.”

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Under 19 World Cup Division 2 qualifier

• September 26 to October 6, Kuala Lumpur

UAE squad

• Yodhin Punja (captain), Fahad Nawaz, Sachin Jha, Salah Shakeel, Sushain Thapar, Aryan Lakra, Mohammed Ali Mirza, Jonathan Figy, Justin D’Souza, Ansh Tandon, Karthik Meiyappan, Krishna Lakhani, Shah Faisal, Ehtesham Siddique, Marlon Malcolm, Rahul Bhatia