Bring on more one-dayers to boost local talent, aver UAE WC heroes - GulfToday

Bring on more one-dayers to boost local talent, aver UAE WC heroes

Sharjah-Cricket

Young Talents Coaching Academy director and senior coach Shahzad Altaf during a training session in Dubai.

Agnelo Rodrigues, Staff Reporter

The World Cup is up and running. And while the world watched with bated breath the opener between pre-tournament favourites England and South Africa on Thursday, star members of the UAE cricket team that represented the country for the first time in the 1996 Cricket World Cup rue the dearth of 50-over tournaments in the country, which they believe is the primary reason for UAE not leaving their stamp at the elite cricketing event.

The UAE has made it only twice to the World Cup, the first time in 1996 and then 19 years later in the last edition played in Australia and New Zealand. Though the UAE’s performance was marginally stronger in their 2015 outing, they failed to win even a single match. The only win UAE has had in the tournament goes back to 1996 when they defeated the Netherlands by seven wickets at the Gaddhafi Stadium in Lahore.

“If UAE cricket is to make its mark on the international stage, we have to have more 50-over tournaments,” said right-arm pace bowler Shahzad Altaf, who had opened the bowling in two of the matches at the 1996 World Cup.

“There are hardly any 50-over tournaments at the moment in the UAE. Almost all are Twenty20 tournaments. If the standard of UAE cricket has to improve, then we need 50-over tournaments and leagues. Only then will we get cricketers who can go on to shine in international cricket,” added Altaf, who has been grooming talent in the UAE at the Young Talents Cricket Academy for nearly two decades.

“We had a whole lot of one-day cricket happening in the UAE during our times. There was the Bukhatir League, the Dulsco league, Dubai League and Sharjah had a couple of leagues. Of course, there was no concept of twenty overs cricket at the time.”

“I have never played a twenty overs match in my career of 25 years. The standard was 50 overs. When a cricketer plays a 50-over match you can spot his abilities. How can you know the potential of a player when he plays just around two overs in a 20-over match?,” he questioned.

Another 1996 World Cup Arshad Liaq also reiterates Altaf’s viewpoint that the lure of T20 cricket has adversely impacted UAE’s chances in one-day internationals.

“The mindset of the players has changed with the onset of T20 cricket. They are only aiming for fours and sixes and don’t wait for the singles and twos,” said the all-rounder.

“In a 50-over match, players target a century but nowadays they are thinking if they can get quick runs, say 40 to 50, then it is ok,” added Liaq who played in four of the five matches during the 1996 World Cup. “Domestic cricket should comprise more one-dayers than T20s,” he asserted.

So what is the way forward? The UAE has cricket councils in almost all the emirates and boasts of world cup stadia. Besides, the UAE regularly hosts some of world’s best sides -- from England to Australia to Sri Lanka, and is the home ground for Pakistan. And the answer could be found in this.

“Each council should have a team of its own and they should play against each other in at least two 50-over tournaments in a season. Last year there was a tournament but each council played only three matches. But three matches are not enough. Each council team has to play a minimum of 20 50-over matches annually, then only we will be able to spot some real talent,” revealed Altaf who organises various age-group tournaments annually. He then takes the top few on tour to play with English school teams during the summer break.

While he is happy with the availability of talent in the UAE, he laments that after the players who have excelled at the age-group level, have very literally no options to progress from there on.

“After crossing 18 years there is no way forward for them. Their talent is wasted. If you see Nepal and Afghanistan they are playing a lot of 50-over tournaments, which has helped their cricketers tremendously. We need something on those lines here.”

And who does he tip to lift the trophy this edition? “I would say Australia. Of course there is England and India,” he said while adding that Pakistan could create a few upset if their game clicks.

Arshal Liaq on the other hand tips India to take the champions glory. “My favourites are India. The team is good in all departments and even their bench is very strong. Their batting line is good right to the last man,” he said, while placing South Africa among the top four.


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