Former UAE captain Mohammad Tauqir. Image Credit: Abdel-Krim Kallouche/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE played in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 held in Australia and New Zealand, but will be absent from the this year’s edition when the action gets under way on May 30 in England and Wales.

The format for the tournament has been changed to a single group of 10 teams, down from two groups of seven at the previous two events.

The tournament was criticised over the number of competitive spaces available as it meant — after the elimination of all the Associate teams at the qualifying tournament — this will be the first World Cup to feature no Associate members.

Mohammad Tauqir, who had captained the UAE in 2015, feels that opportunities such as playing in the World Cup is a huge boost for Associate member nations like the UAE.

In an exclusive interview to Gulf News, Tauqir said: “World Cup should not be restricted to only Test playing nations. Top four Associate nations should also get an opportunity to feature in the World Cup.”

It was a special moment for UAE cricket in 2015 as it was their first appearance after 19 long years. They made their bow at the 1996 World Cup. Tauqir proudly led the team against cricket giants such as India, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Pakistan captained by Misbah-ul-Haq and South Africa and West Indies led by AB de Villiers and Jason Holder respectively. The UAE also played against Zimbabwe and Ireland. 
“A 14-nation World Cup was a good format and the ICC should provide an opportunity to Associate nations to play in the World Cup. It really feels special for a nation to perform in the World Cup. Our match against Ireland in Brisbane at the Gabba was one of the best matches of the World Cup,” said Tauqir. Although Ireland won the match by two wickets with only four balls to spare, UAE’s Shaiman Anwar won the hearts of the fans through a knock of 106 runs.

Describing the feeling of walking out to the toss with legendary captains and posing with all the captains with the World Cup prior to the start of the tournament, Tauqir said: “It was a great honour to lead the team in the World Cup. Rubbing shoulders with the best players was an amazing experience. We all thoroughly enjoyed it and will remember it for the rest of our life. Playing matches against India, Pakistan and South Africa was truly a wonderful experience.”

When asked what are the lessons learnt by playing in the World Cup, Tauqir said: “You get to gain confidence, maturity and experience by playing at the top level with the best cricketers in the world. This is needed for all nations to progress in world cricket.”

To a query as to why UAE could not qualify for this World Cup, Tauqir, who is now a qualified coach, said: “I think one of the reasons is lack of competitive cricket. UAE should also play more two and three day matches with the likes of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh A teams. We should more often tour these countries and play as many matches as possible. UAE should also properly develop and groom its Under-19 players and create an A team to increase the number of players.”