Kolkata: The UAE, on the verge of getting back inzto international cricket after a gap of 11 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, wants to raise the bar as they take on full member nation Ireland in the first of four One-day Internationals in Abu Dhabi on Friday. All four matches will be held at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in the UAE capital on Friday, January 10, 12 and 14.
It was during last February that the Emirates Cricket Board had named Robin Singh, the former Indian allrounder and a decorated coach, as their Director of Cricket and Head Coach of the national team. While pandemic came in the way of them pursuing their goal, Singh said it’s high time that Ahmed Raza’s team need to strive to bridge the gap between them and the likes of Ireland and Afghanistan - who have made the cut as full member nations now.
‘‘Ireland is a good team to start our competitive cricket against,’’ Singh said in a chat with Gulf News earlier this week.
Raza, the UAE captain, said in a virtual press conference on Wednesday that he is looking forward to a return to playing, given the difficulties of the recent past. “It was definitely concerning but we were pretty lucky to be in the UAE,” Raza said.
“The government and the concerned authorities took care of this pandemic very well and we were able to hit the ground running, before any other Associate nation. We played a domestic tournament which was streamed live, then a T20 tournament. We had a busy calendar that was postponed due to the pandemic,’’ said the senior left-arm spinner, who enriched his experience as a net bowler with Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL 2020 in the UAE.
The next official schedule after this for UAE is a Cricket World Cup League Two tri-series against hosts United States and Scotland in August. “Now we are looking forward to what this year will hold. We have to take each series at a time, and we cannot plan much ahead of ourselves,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, Ireland pacer David Delany has been ruled out of the four-match series against UAE after complaining of knee pain following training, Cricket Ireland has informed.
While the initial injury was reported to support staff on Monday, a decision was made on Wednesday to return Delany to Ireland.
“David limped off the field during our centre wicket practice on Monday citing sudden pain in his left knee. Given that he has previous history with his knee, we feel that it is best to get David home safely and have a review with his knee specialist,” said Mark Rausa, Head of Sports Science, Physiotherapy and Medical Services for Cricket Ireland.
Josh Little, who will join the squad on Thursday, was originally named in the 16-man squad, but in mid-December he was forced to self-isolate after a close contact tested positive. He was tested at the time, but returned a negative result. However, a second test four days later yielded a positive result and he was immediately quarantined at home in Dublin. All other players and coaches returned negative results.
Ireland: Andrew Balbirnie (c), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, David Delany, Gareth Delany, Josh Little, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, James McCollum, Kevin O’Brien, Neil Rock, Simi Singh, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Craig Young.
UAE: Ahmed Raza (c), Chirag Suri (vc), Rohan Mustafa, Muhammad Usman, Muhammad Boota, Zahoor Khan, Junaid Siddique, Waheed Ahmad, Zawar Farid, CP Rizwaan, Aryan Lakra, Karthik Meiyappan, Alishan Sharafu, Basil Hameed, Kashif Daud, Adithya Shetty, Vriitya Aravind.