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31 January 201514:46

UAE ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Tournament Preview & Guide

UAE returns to the ICC Cricket World Cup after a gap of nearly two decades, and on the back of some strong ODI performances

UAE ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Tournament Preview & Guide - Cricket News

Khurram Khan was named vice-captain of UAE's 15-man squad.

United Arab Emirates makes a comeback to cricket's flagship event after a gap of nearly two decades – its last and only appearance was in 1996 – thanks to some strong performances in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier tournament in 2014. With the exception of a lone defeat to Scotland in the group stage, it had won all its matches heading into the final, before finishing second-best against the same opponent to take the fourteenth and final spot at ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.

UAE spent a good couple of weeks as part of the ICC’s High Performance Programme tour of Australia and New Zealand to get acclimatised to the conditions they’ll face down under. It came out of the tour, where it played six matches, with two wins - by four, and seven wickets, against Northern Territory and Papua New Guinea, respectively.

Mohammad Tauqir will captain the side in the tournament and will be supported closely by vice-captain and experienced former leader Khurram Khan.


World Cup History: UAE bowed out of the 1996 edition defeating Netherlands by seven wickets to end its campaign on a high and register its only win in World Cups.


"I think that in 1996, no one took the UAE as seriously as they do today. There was only limited exposure to the world. People weren’t sure how good UAE cricket was. But now, people have seen UAE playing at different levels, and I think we can surprise a few people and a few teams."

Aqib Javed - UAE coach
Pool: UAE is a part of Pool B, with India, the defending champion, South Africa, Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland, and UAE.


Captain: Mohammad Tauqir


Coach: Aqib Javed


Preview: UAE may be a fresh side, but Aqib Javed, the coach, is a seasoned campaigner, whose inputs will be of vital importance to the team.

UAE starts off its campaign with matches against Zimbabwe in Nelson and Ireland in Brisbane. These two matches will also provide it with its two best opportunities for wins in Pool B. If UAE does manage to start its campaign off on a winning note and gain some momentum, it should certainly boost its chances of putting up a good show against the bigger teams.


Mohammad Tauqir has been named the captain of the side for the tournament, taking over from Khurram Khan, and UAE will have to get accustomed to his style of leadership quickly.


The coaching unit for the squad got a late boost with the appointment of former England international, Paul Franks as assistant coach to the Head Coach and 1992 World Cup winner Aqib Javed.


Strengths: In Khurram Khan, UAE has a consistent and reliable performer with the bat. With the ball, it has largely hunted in a pack and the bowling performances have been consistent in the months leading up to the World Cup. Manjula Guruge, the left-arm medium pacer, has especially shown promise. He can swing the ball and has shown his bowling prowess at the death.


Recent Form: Though UAE lost an unofficial five-match ODI series at home when Pakistan A toured the country in October, it put up a good fight and won two matches. It had a decent outing in the Asian Cricket Council Premier League in March as well, where it pulled things back nicely with three back-to-back wins after defeats in the first two matches.


The HPP tour of Australia and New Zealand in September did not pan out as it may have liked, where it won only two out of six games. But UAE did well in its last ODI assignment, a four-match home series against Afghanistan, where consistent performances helped it win the series 3-1 and ensure it would head into the event with some restored confidence.


Star Player: Khurram Khan


Khurram has been in blazing form the past year. 2014 paid rich dividends for the former UAE captain as he scored 334 runs in six ODIs at 83.50 and a highest score of 132 not out. Khurram's runs came at a healthy strike rate of 85.86 as well.


Khurram also played a key role in UAE's qualifying campaign and was instrumental in UAE sealing a place in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. His 581 runs in eight matches at 72.62 helped him top the batting charts. He recently became the oldest ODI centurion ever, when he made an unbeaten 132 against Afghanistan in December of last year.


Khurram's left-arm spin can come in handy as well.



One to Watch: Saqlain Haider



The 27-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman made his ODI debut in December last year when he became eligible to represent UAE. He has been a part of three major finals in domestic cricket and has been awarded the Man of the Match on each of those three occasions.


Haider earned lavish praise from several Australian cricketers when he kept wickets for them in a warm-up match against Pakistan A in Sharjah in October when Australia decided to give Brad Haddin a rest. He was appreciated for his enthusiasm and agility behind the stumps and came in for special praise when he took what Nathan Lyon described as a "screamer of a catch" to dismiss Shan Masood.


Haider is also known to be supremely fit. Aqib Javed, the coach, had once said, “He is a genuine talent, and very fit. I would say he is the fittest person in the squad, matched with Rohan Mustafa.”


Key Facts:

- Shaiman Anwar is believed to have developed his batting technique based on that of Rahul Dravid, the former India batsman.

- Saqlain Haider works in a bank apart from playing cricket for UAE. He also once kept wickets for Australia in a warm-up match against Pakistan A in Sharjah.

- UAE is the most inexperienced team, heading into the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. All 15 members of the squad put together have a cumulative experience of 71 ODIs, the least among the 14 teams.

- UAE is the team with the least ODI hundreds (1).

- Krishnachandran Karate is the first player from Kerala, India, to be a part of the UAE team.


Key Match: UAE v Zimbabwe, February 19, Saxton Oval, Nelson


UAE is placed in a tough group that also comprises India, South Africa, Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe and Ireland. The opening match against Zimbabwe is UAE's best chance of scoring a win. It also gives it the opportunity to start off on a winning note and carry some momentum, heading into the other games.


Quotes:


"We are targeting one or two wins. It's a challenging but a realistic target. These players are capable of causing an upset." – Mohammad Tauqir, UAE captain


“I will do my best to give 100 per cent of my ability. I want to prove myself. I have worked really hard for the past three years as it has been my dream to play at a World Cup for UAE. Inshallah, I can prove myself.” - Saqlain Haider, UAE wicketkeeper


Squad:


Mohammad Tauqir (capt), Khurram Khan (vice-capt), Swapnil Patil, Saqlain Haider, Amjad Javed, Shaiman Anwar, Amjad Ali, Nasir Aziz, Rohan Mustafa, Manjula Guruge, Andri Berenger, Fahad Al Hashmi, Muhammad Naveed, Kamran Shahzad & K Karate.


Fixtures:

Feb 19: v Zimbabwe, Saxton Oval, Nelson
Feb 25: v Ireland, Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba, Brisbane
Feb 28: v India, Western Australia Cricket Association Ground, Perth
Mar 04: v Pakistan, McLean Park, Napier
Mar 12: v South Africa, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Mar 15: v West Indies, McLean Park, Napier