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UAE cricketers on the path to professionalism

Aqib Javed, UAE’s coach, hopeful his wards can soon leave other jobs and become full-time cricketers after qualification for world events

UAE cricketers on the path to professionalism - Cricket News
Khurram said it was hard to rely on cricket as the only source of income, but he was hopeful of change in the future.
The United Arab Emirates is gearing up for its first appearance in a world tournament in 18 years, as it prepares to kick off its ICC World Twenty20 2014 campaign. Many of the cricketers who will form the team have other jobs to sustain their livelihood though. Khurram Khan, the captain, is an airline steward, while Vikrant Shetty spends his time off the field working as a media planner for an advertising company.
Khurram said it was hard to rely on cricket as the only source of income, but he was hopeful of change in the future.
"You can't take cricket seriously as a career in the UAE at the moment," said Khurram. "We all have different full-time jobs and we play in our spare time. Qualifying for the World Cup is a huge achievement for a team which is not professional. But the times are changing and there are lots of young players coming into the game who can take up cricket as a career."
Vikrant, who is on annual leave, said that it felt good to be attending press conferences where he was being questioned, rather than arranging for one.
"It actually feels good because most of the times I am arranging PR conferences for our clients while now I am actually in a press conference where I am getting questioned," he said. "So it's an interesting thing for me. I am not sure which team [those in the UAE] will be supporting because there are many immigrants who are working in the office, but hope they support UAE and that we make a mark,” he said.
UAE had last qualified for a world event in 1996, when it took part in the ODI World Cup that year, but recently it has qualified for the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup, the ICC World Twenty20 2014 and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. The Emirates Cricket Board is now considering offering central contracts to the players, with Aqib Javed, the coach, saying that the decision will do good for cricket in the country.
"We have 25 to 30 players in the pool," said Javed, the former Pakistan pacer. "Khurram is working in Emirates Airlines. We have two players who are working at the manager level. A few are doing different jobs. We have already chalked out a plan in cricket. After getting ODI status and qualifying for 2015 World Cup, we are about to offer them a central contract. It will definitely help them get more time for cricket."
Javed said Khurram was “a perfect role model” for the rest of the squad.
"He [Khurram] is one guy who has set high standards. He is 42, and he is the most consistent run-getter. A perfect role model for others because when he takes flights from Dubai to America, it takes 14-15 hours," said Javed. "He only has few hours to rest and he comes to the practice.
"We are unique because we only practice at night. Now we are introducing tough training sessions, of international level,” he added.
Javed acknowledged that working with an Associate nation and helping to build a talent pool that was fit enough to compete at the international level was a challenge.
"They were in very ordinary physical condition," he said. "I was shocked on the first day. They work ten hours in the offices and in the evening they come for practice. They are already mentally and physically tired.
"I talked to them, convinced them - if you work hard, it will help you in your daily routine. I think it definitely was a positive response from the players. We have achieved a lot in two years. There is a lot of room to improve."
UAE has won one first-class game, eight out of 13 Twenty20 matches and 11 out of 19 one-dayers since Javed took over.
"I think they are better by 50% in every aspect," he said. "Mentally they believe in themselves. They have played some good cricket. Apart from playing in the UAE, they have qualified for the 2015 World Cup. They are semi-pro. The next step is to make them professionals. It won't be easy but we will get there."
With some tough competitors in Netherlands, Ireland and Zimbabwe who are also in the race for a berth in the main tournament, UAE will have its task cut out when it kickstarts its campaign against Netherlands on March 17.

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