Dubai: UAE are confident of making the Super 12 as Asia Cup champions Sri Lanka and West Indies are starting as favourites in their respective groups in the first round of the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup, beginning in Australia on Sunday.
“We are confident and the team morale is excellent. Every game is crucial and every team is looking to win, so we need to play some solid cricket without being extravagant,” Robin Singh, Director of Cricket, Emirates Cricket Board, told Gulf News from Australia on the eve of UAE’s first game against Netherlands in Geelong.
The UAE team left early to Australia to acclimatize to the conditions and the pitches that are hugely different from the ones in UAE. The UAE coach feels it is probably the best move and that has made a huge difference to the team in adopting to the conditions.
“We had a good preparation time here. The conditions are cold but coming here early will make a huge difference. We played four games excellently well here and we had some good facilities as well, credit to Geelong cricket club. We made the most of our time here.”
The UAE, after missing the Asia Cup, did not waste time and played two Twenty20 matches against Bangladesh in Dubai and though the hosts lost both the encounters, they ran close to Bangladesh in the first game and lost from a seeming a winning position. The Tigers were a different team altogether in the second, which also gave the UAE players the insight on what is required at that level.
The UAE also lost to West Indies narrowly in the only official warm-up game in Australia while the second match against Scotland was abandoned due to rain.
“Against the West Indies, we were in a great position to win the game. We were trying out different players, but we put up a good show and had some good positives coming out of the game. The bowlers did exceedingly well, probably the best I have seen in a while, and Muhammad Waseem batted brilliantly and Zawar Farid played a good knock. We just need the other batters to step up,” Robin Singh, the former India all-rounder added. UAE pacer Junaid Siddique finished with a five-wicket haul, while Zahoor Khan claimed two against the West Indies.
Team skipper CP Rizwan also feels the West Indies game has boosted the team morale, but rues the missed opportunity at the famed Melbourne Cricket Ground where the Scotland game was rained off.
“It was a great experience playing two-time World Champions West Indies. Junaid’s five-wicket haul, Zahoor’s bowling and Waseem innings and Zawa’s cameo are all big positives ahead of the tournament,” felt the UAE skipper.
It is the second instance that the UAE have qualified for the Twenty20 World Cup after having done earlier in 2014. Though they have finished last the previous occasion, this team show plenty of promise to make amends.
The UAE team have a right mix of youth and experience with vice-captain Vriitya Aravind, Karthik Meyappan, Aryan Lakra and the teenager Aayan Khan, who is the youngest player in the T20 World Cup 2022 – the four home-grown talents - are aged between 21 and 16.
Though the wickets are not spin-friendly, Robin feels the pitches will suit the UAE seamers more.
“These wickets are very different from the typical Australian pitches. It will be suitable to us and give us a good platform to do really well. I am hoping to see how Karthik will bowl, he should play a huge part in this tournament,” Robin added.
The UAE are playing after the first match between Sri Lanka and Namibia on the same pitch. That should give the UAE team an idea of how it behaves and tailor their plan accordingly.
Former champions Sri Lankans have a tough job on their hands as they have to go through the first round to clinch their second title. But the young team under Dasun Shanaka showed plenty of resilience to win the Asia Cup from the brink by defeating favourites India and Pakistan. That should give the team the belief that they could reproduce the same magic. But it might not be as easy as the pitches and conditions are hugely different from the ones that were in UAE.
Two-time champions West Indies also have a mountain to climb and with the retirement of many of the global Twenty20 stars, the Caribbeans have to play out of their skin to enter the Super 12 from Group B that also has Zimbabwe, who have been showing some impressive form in recent times.
Twenty20 is ideally suited to the West Indian style of play, but the team under Nicholas Pooran has to show the consistency of the past to make their mark in the showpiece. However, both West Indies and Sri Lanka have the ammunition to go past the group stages. Apart from Sri Lanka and UAE in Group A, Namibia and Netherlands complete the quartet, while Group B has West Indies, Zimbabwe, Scotland and Ireland.
“The conditions are not favourable for cricket, but I think it’s going to be same for everyone. It’s going to be an interesting tournament,” Robin Singh concluded.
8am: SRI LANKA V NAMIBIA, Kardinia Park, Geelong
12 noon: UNITED ARAB EMIRATES V NETHERLANDS, Kardinia Park, Geelong
Monday, October 17:
8am: WEST INDIES V SCOTLAND, Bellerive Oval, Hobart
12noon: ZIMBABWE V IRELAND, Bellerive Oval, Hobart
Tuesday, October 18:
8am: NAMIBIA V NETHERLANDS, Kardinia Park, Geelong
12 noon: SRI LANKA V UAE, Kardinia Park, Geelong
Wednesday, October 19:
8pm: SCOTLAND V IRELAND, Bellerive Oval, Hobart
12 noon: WEST INDIES V ZIMBABWE, Bellerive Oval, Hobart
Thursday, October 20:
8am: NETHERLANDS V SRI LANKA, Kardinia Park, Geelong
12noon: NAMIBIA V UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, Kardinia Park, Geelong
Friday, October 21:
8am: IRELAND V WEST INDIES, Bellerive Oval, Hobart
12noon: SCOTLAND V ZIMBABWE, Bellerive Oval, Hobart
Other teams - Group A:
Namibia (second appearance)
Namibia are fast establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with on the world stage. They were firm underdogs in their Round 1 group at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 but comfortable victories over Netherlands and Ireland ensured their progression to the latter stages.
Since then, they have claimed their first-ever series win over a full-member nation, beating Zimbabwe (3-2) in a five-match T20I series in May. Captain Gerhard Erasmus was the star of the show in the win that secured qualification over Ireland, notching up an unbeaten half-century before David Wiese hit the winning runs.
Netherlands (fifth appearance)
One of the final two teams to book a spot at the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, the Netherlands are out to right a few wrongs in Australia. Slow starts in each of the previous two tournaments have cost them a place in the Super 12 stage.
A defeat to Bangladesh and a washout against Oman saw them eliminated before their final first round fixture at the 2016 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. Then, in 2021, they were soundly beaten in each of their three fixtures and were skittled out for less than 110 on two occasions.
That means a fast start is a must this year for the lowest-ranked side in the group and they will want to be in a strong position prior to their clash with Sri Lanka on October 20.
Scotland will aim to make another slice of history.
They reached the Super 12 stage of the tournament for the first time in 2021 with landmark victories over Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea and Oman.
It was a major breakthrough on their fourth appearance on the biggest stage of them all and they will aim to keep the ball rolling in Australia.
Scotland have only played two T20 internationals since the last staging of the Men’s T20 World Cup.
Their bowling attack was flayed to all parts of the Grange in Edinburgh by New Zealand as they fell short of towering run-chases of 254 and 225.
Shane Burger’s side have excelled with five wins in their last six matches in ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup League 2, building valuable momentum albeit in the 50-over format.
RAZA HOLDS THE KEY FOR ZIMBABWE
Zimbabwe are back at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. Having missed last year’s event in the UAE and Oman, they will return to the big stage for the first time since 2016.
Powered by in-form all-rounder Sikandar Raza, Dave Houghton’s side will hope to make a big impression in their fifth ICC Men’s T20 World Cup campaign.
Zimbabwe used home advantage to full effect to seal their spot in Australia. The Chevrons dominated the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Global Qualifier B in Bulawayo, winning five games on the bounce with a series of commanding performances.
They were consistently able to access first-innings totals towards 200 and when the batters faltered, the bowling unit stepped up. That was keenly felt in the final when Zimbabwe were bowled out for 132 but then proceeded to skittle the Dutch for 95 to take overall victory in the Qualifier.
IRISH EYES SMILING ON THE ICC MEN’S T20 WORLD CUP 2022
Ireland are now part of the furniture at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup as they head into their seventh consecutive appearance at the showpiece.
A First Round exit in 2021 was a disappointment for Heinrich Malan’s side, and they will head into the 2022 edition hoping to make it past the first hurdle for the first time since 2009.
Ireland booked their place in Australia thanks to finishing runners-up in ICC Global Qualifier A behind the UAE.
They must navigate a group stage of Scotland, West Indies, and Zimbabwe in order to reach the Super 12 - so what can we expect from Ireland at the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup?
Progressing to the Super 12 will be the aim for Ireland. Having won just one of their three games in 2021, Ireland will be hopeful of going one better in 2022.
Two wins will almost certainly be enough to extend their stay in Australia, with the games against Scotland and Zimbabwe the most likely sources, and victory in their opening two fixtures would take pressure off the final game against West Indies in Hobart.
- With inputs from ICC