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Nepal to rely on raw talent, UAE’s first target is Super Six

UAE
Both the teams are set for the qualifiers to progress to the ICC’s pinnacle 50-over tournament – the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
  • “The way Nepal cricket has blossomed in the past decade or so is reflected in the composition of this side,” says Khadka
  • To be alongside some of the biggest names in cricket and play in the same competition as them is sensational,” says Lamichhane
  • Roshan: “We are in fine shape to produce good results in Zimbabwe as we are coming at the back of a winning performance in Namibia”
  • UAE’s Rameez Shahzad aims to follow in the footsteps of his father Shahzad Altaf
  • Umpire and match referee appointments, playing conditions and teams’ daily training schedule are available on the Online Media Zone. During the event, media guide, photos from all matches, 90 seconds highlights from non-broadcast matches, unedited post-match media conferences and daily audio/written round-ups will be available for free download and editorial use 
  • Media accreditation closes on Tuesday

Nepal will be the youngest side, while the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will be the oldest when they enter next month’s ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe in their quest to progress to the ICC’s pinnacle 50-over tournament – the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.

Nepal have not played an ODI in their young but impressive cricket history and the average age of their side is 24 years and one month. In contrast, the average side of the UAE side is 31 years and eight months – 13 months more than Ireland, who have the second oldest side in the tournament. In addition to this, the UAE also have a combined experienced of 165 ODIs and have featured in the ICC Cricket World Cup 1996 in India and Pakistan and in 2015 in Australia and New Zealand.

Furthermore, five of the six youngest players in the tournament are from Nepal. They are: 15-year-old right-handed batsman Rohit Paudel, 17-year-old wrist-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane, 18-year-old all-rounder Dipendra Airee, 19-year-old left-arm spinner Laljit Rajbanshi and right-handed batsman Anil Sah.

Nepal have earned their maiden ticket to the qualifier by finishing second in last week’s ICC World Cricket League Division 2 in Namibia and have joined Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Scotland and Hong Kong in Group B. Nepal will take on Zimbabwe on the opening day on 4 March at the Queens Sports Club, while they will square off against Scotland on 8 March at the same venue.

Nepal will be captained by Paras Khadka, who has played in three ICC U19 Cricket World Cups from 2004 to 2008. On his T20I debut against Hong Kong during the ICC World Twenty20 2014, he took a wicket off his first ball when he dismissed Irfan Ahmed.

Nepal’s leading run-getter in the Namibia qualifier with 241 runs, Khadka said the age of his side was a reflection of how cricket has developed and grown in the country in the past decade.

“The way Nepal cricket has blossomed in the past decade or so is reflected in the composition of this side. We have played well in various age-group, regional and qualifying events, which has given cricket the much needed lift and boost, and as a result, we have some young but outstanding cricketers who have immense talent.

“The ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier will be a stepping stone for most of the cricketers and will undoubtedly give them further experience and exposure.

“Sandeep Lamichhane’s selection for Delhi Daredevils is an evidence of the talent we have in our ranks. Opportunities like the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier will not only put us on the world map but will throw more talent which can be tapped by other leagues and franchisees,” said Khadka.

The Nepal captain said his side will not be overawed by the teams taking part in the three-week tournament.

“All the sides will arrive in Zimbabwe with the ultimate dream of qualifying for the World Cup, and we will be no different. We played good cricket in Namibia and now want to carry the momentum in the qualifiers. Whatever the outcome, this tournament will be a great opportunity for all of us to put Nepal on the world cricket map and help the next generation of Nepal cricketers,” Khadka said.

Nepal will be the youngest side with the average age their side being 24 years and one month
Nepal will be the youngest side with the average age their side being 24 years and one month

Lamichhane, who was the joint-leading wicket-taker in the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 with 17 wickets, said he cannot wait to be in Zimbabwe for the qualifiers.

“The ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier will be the biggest and highest international level tournament we will play. To be alongside some of the biggest names in cricket and play in the same competition as them is sensational. This will be a great and unique opportunity for all of us and we all look forward to making optimum use of this.

“To be picked up by Delhi Daredevils and then qualifying for the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier – I don’t think there can be a better start to the year for me. I am ecstatic but at the same time working hard and focused to ensure I fully cash in on the opportunities that have come my way,” Lamichhane said.

The UAE will be banking on Shaiman Anwar, Mohammad Naveed and Rohan Mustafa who were part of the squad for the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2015. Shaiman was the UAE’s stand-out player in the tournament, finishing with 311 runs, which included an 83-ball 106 against Ireland andhalf-centuries against Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

The side will be captained by Rohan Mustafa, who has played 20 ODIs in which he has scored 454 runs and taken 20 wickets.

29-year-old Rohan said his side’s first target was to qualify for the Super Six stage. “We are taking one step at a time, which means our first target is to qualify for the Super Six stage. No disrespect to any team but I think we have a strong chance against the Netherlands and Papua New Guinea as we have recently played against them and won those matches. The slow wickets in Harare are also likely to assist our brand of cricket.

“We are in fine shape to produce good results in Zimbabwe as we are coming at the back of a winning performance in Namibia. Then we have Shaiman and Naveed who played in the 2015 World Cup and the World Twenty20 2016 and have been sharing their experiences and lifting the players’ spirits.

The UAE have qualified for the seventh ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier after winning the ICC World Cricket League Division 2. They will now join two-time world champions the Windies, Ireland, the Netherlands and Papua New Guinea in Group A, and will open their campaign against hosts PNG at the Harare Sports Club on 4 March.

The UAE side also includes Rameez Shahzad, who will be aiming to follow in the footsteps of his father Shahzad Altaf who played two ICC Cricket World Cup 1996 matches for the UAE. Against South Africa, in which Gary Kirsten scored 188 not out, Shahzad’s figures read none for 22 in three overs, while he returned figures of 10-3-15-1 against the Netherlands at Lahore,

Rameez made his first-class debut for the UAE against Ireland in 2005, but had to wait for 11 years to make his ODI debut, which came against Scotland in Edinburgh. In 11 ODIs, the right-handed batsman averages just under 48, while his strike-rate in eight T20Is has been 125.

In the ICC World Cricket League Division 2, Rameez contributed 161 runs at just over 32.

Ashfaq Ahmed was the UAE’s star batsman in Namibia when he finished with 237 runs, including 114 in the final which earned him the player of the match award. After Rohan’s 13 wickets, 29-year-old left-arm spinner Ahmed Raza took 10 wickets.

Squads:

NEPAL: Paras Khadka (captain); Dipendra Airee; Lalit Bhandari; Shakti Gauchan; Sompal Kami; Karan KC; Sandeep Lamichhane; Gyanendra Malla; Dilip Nath; Rohit Paudel; Lalit Rajbanshi; Basant Regmi; Anil Sah; Arif Sheikh and Sharad Vesawkar

UAE: Rohan Mustafa (captain); Adnan Mufti; Ahmed Raza; Amir Hayat; Ashfaq Ahmed; Chirag Suri; Ghulam Shabbir; Imran Haider; Muhammad Boota; Muhammad Naveed; Muhammad Usman; Qadeer Ahmed; Rameez Shahzad; Shaiman Anwar and Zahoor Khan. Dougie Brown (coach)

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