UAE end Asia Cup on losing note to India, with batsmen again coming up short

Another year, another match against India, and in another format, too. And, still, another nine-wicket loss against cricket’s great behemoth.

India’s Shikhar Dhawan, foreground left, and Yuvraj Singh, foreground right, walk out from the field after winning the Asia Cup Twenty20 international cricket match against United Arab Emirates in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday, March 3, 2016. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)
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DHAKA // Another year, another match against India, and in another format, too. And, still, another nine-wicket loss against cricket’s great behemoth.

The UAE will fly back home Friday chastened by their experiences in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh over the past two weeks, but all the better for them.

They competed well against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the previous games. Getting thumped in their last match by India was perhaps understandable.

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There is a reason mismatches like this happen. The tale of the tape is frightening. On the one side there is cricket’s great commercial superpower. A nation of over a billion, approximately half of whom, probably, would rather quite like to represent the national cricket team.

On the other, a team of semi-professional players, from a country where the pool of people who could viably play international cricket is minimal.

It is a mitigating factor that is wearing a little thin, though. The UAE have never beaten a Test nation in any format. They have played 10 matches against that kind of opposition in major tournaments in the past two years.

That run will continue until they can sort out their batting problems. Here they made the second lowest score – 81 for nine – of any side who has not been bowled out in a Twenty20 international innings. India, the format’s leading side at present, were just far too good.

“We planned to try to score 120 and then try to put them under pressure, but we were playing the favourites for this tournament and it was really tough for us,” Amjad Javed, the UAE captain, said.

“Their bowlers are very experienced. We learnt a lot from this game. We have to go away, fix the problems, then try to come back hard.”

Last year, when India won by the exact same margin in the 50-over World Cup, MS Dhoni said developing sides like the UAE needed more matches against top-level sides if they are going to improve.

The India captain added a caveat, though, asking for his team to be kept out of any such missionary work. India already have enough demands on their time, he reasoned.

Judged by the body language of his team in Mirpur, his team must have been thinking there were better things they could be doing with their time than playing this match.

Dhoni himself would probably have rather been playing football. He and his players barely did any cricket-specific training in the prelude to the game. Instead they played a highly competitive game of head-tennis for most of the time, using a row of plastic chairs as the net.

Barely any of the nine UAE wickets that fell were followed by any sort of celebration worthy of the name; even Hardik Pandya’s gymnastic catch to get rid of Mohammed Kaleem on the boundary seemed low key.

With both teams’ fate sealed before a ball was even bowled, India’s thoughts were already on Sunday’s final with hosts Bangladesh.

“To beat a home team is always difficult as they have the advantage of knowing the conditions well,” Dhoni said. “It will be a good final.”

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