Currently occupying fifth position on the Championship table, UAE will jump to second if it wins the double-header
Matches to be streamed live on ICC website www.icc-cricket.com and ICC YouTube Channel, http://www.youtube.com/CricketICC; photos to be available on ICC ftp site
United Arab Emirates (UAE) coach Aqib Javed wants his side to take one step at a time as it attempts to qualify for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 against Namibia in two 50-over matches in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Championship at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Friday and Sunday.
The UAE, which played in the ICC Cricket World Cup 1996, is currently occupying fifth position on the Championship table, but it will jump to second if it wins the double-header. If Kenya then upsets Afghanistan in one of the two ODIs on 2 and 4 October, then the UAE will become the second side, after Ireland, to qualify for the ICC’s marquee event, to be staged in Australia and New Zealand from 14 February to 29 March 2015.
However, in the scenario of the UAE and Afghanistan both dropping points against Namibia and Kenya, respectively, then the Netherlands will become the second side to qualify for the ICC Cricket World Cup from this tournament, while the bottom six sides will have a second chance to qualify through next year’s ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand, alongside Hong Kong, Nepal, Papua New Guinea and Uganda. The tournament finalists will complete the 14-team line-up of the 2015 event.
“The only thing we can do at this stage of the tournament is to win both our matches against Namibia, and then sit and watch the two ODIs between Afghanistan and Kenya,” said Aqib, who added, “We need to control the controllable. We need to give ourselves a good enough chance to qualify for the ICC Cricket World Cup, and that is only possible if we win both the matches.
“As these are must-win matches, we want to focus our attention and energy on the matches against Namibia instead of worrying or thinking about anything else. If we can make it two out of two, then obviously we’ll go to the stadium next week to support Kenya against Afghanistan. Kabir Khan (Afghanistan coach) is a good friend of mine but it’s the World Cup slot on the line and we would pray that Kenya shows its magic of yesteryears and turns the tables on Afghanistan in at least one of the two matches.”
Aqib is one of three bowlers to take a hat-trick in Sharjah (Wasim Akram and Mohammad Sami being the other two) and has won three ICC events in three different roles. He was a member of the Pakistan side that won the ICC Cricket World Cup 1992, coached the Pakistan Under-19 side to victory in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2004 in Bangladesh, and was the bowling coach of the Pakistan side that clinched the ICC World Twenty20 2009 in England.
“Obviously, I’ll be a proud man if I get an opportunity to coach the UAE in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, but I’m not looking that far ahead. The task at hand is to win both the matches against Namibia and then hope Kenya snatches some points from Afghanistan.”
Aqib believed his team is mentally and physically prepared for the forthcoming matches. “I’ve been impressed with the way the team has changed its attitude in the past few months. The boys are mentally stronger and physically tougher. They read the game better and accordingly change gears in crucial phases of matches, and that is reflected in the recent results,” Aqib said.
In the ongoing Championship, the UAE has won seven out of 12 matches, including victories against Kenya (by four wickets), Afghanistan (by 15 runs and 69 runs), Scotland (by four wickets and two wickets) and Canada (by two wickets and 46 runs). In the lead up to this week’s ODI matches, the UAE played a four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup match against Namibia and beat the visitor inside two days to finish third on the table.
In the matches against Namibia, the UAE will once again be relying on its spinning quartet of Khurram Khan, Nasir Aziz, Shadeep Silva and Ahmed Raza, who share 52 wickets between them in the tournament. Captain Khurram leads the pack with 14 wickets, followed by Nasir and Silva (13 wickets each) and Ahmed (12 wickets).
To back the spinners, the UAE has Shaiman Anwar, a batsman who is enjoying a good run of form with the bat. Khurram is the second leading run-getter in this tournament, and the 34-year-old right-handed batsman has scored 514 runs in 12 matches at an average of over 51, with one century and three half-centuries.
Aqib said that the newly laid square at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium will help the spinners, and his side will try to take optimum advantage of the conditions. “I think we’ll have the advantage as the recently laid square has something for the spinners. We also have batsmen who bat well against slow bowlers. On top of that, we have also practiced hard on this surface.
“While we have a well-knit squad that has been playing together for some time now, Namibia is in a rebuilding phase and is looking to the future. It has a few exciting and talented youngsters in its ranks but they lack experience. If we don’t panic, stick to basics and respect the opponent, then we should win both the matches,” Aqib, who played 22 Tests and 163 ODI for Pakistan from 1988-1998, said.
Both the matches will be day/night fixtures and will start at 1400 local time (1000 GMT).
Namibia - Raymond van Schoor (captain), Stephan Baard, Christopher Coombe, Michau Du Preez, Zane Edward Green, Jean Pierre Kotze, Xander Pitchers, Bernard Scholtz, Nicolaas Scholtz, JJ Smit, Christiaan Frank Snyman, Louis Van Der Westhuizen, Christoffel Viljoen, Helao Ya France
United Arab Emirates (UAE) – Khurram Khan (captain), Saqib Ali, Shaiman Anwar, Muhammad Azam, Nasir Aziz, Mehrooz Khan, Rohan Mustafa, Muhammad Naveed, Swapnil Patil, Ahmed Raza, Muhammad Shafiq, Saqib Hussain Shah, Kamran Shahzad, Shadeep Silva
Umpires – Enamul Hoque and Sarika Siva Prasad
Match referee – Steve Bernard