Suc­cess of Shiraz and Co helps lift gloom in UAE cricket CRICKET

The National - News - - SPORT - PAUL RADLEY

The Al­dar Prop­er­ties Abu Dhabi T10 was just the sort of dis­trac­tion UAE cricket needed.

The tour­na­ment, which reached a cli­max with a fi­nal played in front of more than 20,000 peo­ple on Sun­day, fol­lowed on from a bleak T20 World Cup qual­i­fy­ing tour­na­ment for the na­tional team.

The fact they failed to qual­ify for that felt like the least of the prob­lems back then.

For the fore­see­able fu­ture at least – more likely, per­ma­nently – the na­tional team will be with­out six lead­ing play­ers as a re­sult of a cor­rup­tion probe by the ICC.

As that news emerged grad­u­ally, the at­mos­phere sur­round­ing the game here was woe­ful.

And then along came the T10. Now, a num­ber of play­ers will be look­ing ahead to the World Cup League one-day in­ter­na­tional se­ries against Scot­land and United States next month with a pep in their step.

Six play­ers might need re­plac­ing, but, on the ev­i­dence of the 10-over tour­na­ment, the cup­board is far from bare.

Take it from Andy Flower, the for­mer Ashes-win­ning Eng­land coach who was in charge of the vic­to­ri­ous Maratha Ara­bi­ans side in the T10.

“It is a bril­liant thing that UAE play­ers are play­ing such a part in the tour­na­ment,” Flower said, ahead of the fi­nal.

“It is re­ally im­por­tant for this re­gion that the UAE play­ers get ex­po­sure in the me­dia, but also the ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing in front of crowds and play­ing on TV.

“And play­ing with some re­ally great play­ers. All the coaches I have spo­ken to have en­joyed hav­ing the UAE play­ers play a part in this tour­na­ment.”

Since its in­cep­tion in 2017, the T10 league has had a rule that says at least two mem­bers of each squad must be UAE-qual­i­fied play­ers. One must play in each start­ing XI.

Back when the tour­na­ment started, the home-based help were hardly trusted. They were given a start­ing berth, then told to field. Three sea­sons on, and the play­ers are be­ing in­creas­ingly trusted. Or the bowlers are, at least.

Five of the eight teams in the 2019 T10 used their UAE player to bowl im­por­tant overs. Ro­han Mustafa was termed Team Abu Dhabi’s “trump card” by his cap­tain Moeen Ali early in the tour­na­ment.

Ahmed Raza was man of the match for his left-arm spin for Kar­nataka Tuskers in an early fix­ture.

Sul­tan Ahmed was given the re­spon­si­bil­ity of open­ing the bowl­ing for Qa­lan­dars, while Za­hoor Khan, in one match, sent down 10 dot balls out of the 12 de­liv­er­ies he bowled for Dec­can Gla­di­a­tors.

All of those are es­tab­lished in­ter­na­tion­als. The one who is not, Shiraz Ahmed, was the dis­cov­ery of the tour­na­ment for his left-arm pace-bowl­ing for the win­ning team.

“I think the trust is build­ing, but the re­spon­si­bil­ity comes down to us guys who are play­ing and get­ting the op­por­tu­nity, to show­case UAE tal­ent,” Raza, the UAE cap­tain, said.

“That is how you earn re­spect and trust, and hope­fully next sea­son there will be a few more UAE play­ers do­ing more cru­cial roles – bowl­ing death overs, or bat­ting higher up the or­der.

“Th­ese play­ers will in­crease in the com­ing sea­sons.”

This tour­na­ment even saw two teams – Qa­lan­dars and Dec­can Gla­di­a­tors – field two UAE-qual­i­fied play­ers each to­wards the lat­ter stage of the tour­na­ment for the first time.

Asif Khan made his de­but in the fi­nal for Dec­can, and ended up the top scorer in a bat­ting line up that in­cluded Mo­hammed Shahzad, Shane Wat­son and Kieron Pol­lard.

“Tal­ent is there ev­ery­where,” Dwayne Bravo, the cap­tain of Maratha Ara­bi­ans, said.

“In UAE, play­ers don’t have much ex­po­sure to play­ing with in­ter­na­tional play­ers.

“They will make mis­takes at times, and it is im­por­tant you en­cour­age them and keep back­ing them.

“You can see with the tal­ent they have they need good peo­ple around them to give them con­fi­dence. They are all good play­ers.”

Pawan Singh / The Na­tional

Maratha Ara­bi­ans’ left-arm pace bowler Shiraz Ahmed was a rev­e­la­tion in the Abu Dhabi T10

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