Nilansh Keswani of UAE-1694441504590
Nilansh Keswani celebrates with teammates during the Under-19 World Cup where UAE won the Plate title last year. Image Credit: Source: ICC Twitter

Dubai: For 20-year-old Nilansh Keswani it is a dream come true. The former Under-19 World Cup player has moved up the ranks to be named in the UAE Seniors squad for the six-team Gulf Cup to begin in Doha on Friday.

“It feels great to be in the senior side. It is what I have dreamt of as kid, to play for UAE at the highest level. And for it to happen, it is a crazy feeling, Hopefully, I will do well,” said the left-arm spinner after making his maiden entry into the squad led by Mohammad Waseem.

Coming through the ranks

The Gulf Cricket Twenty20 International Championship 2023 will be played in Qatar. The six-team tournament features the hosts Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia besides UAE. Each team will play the other team once in the group stage with the top two teams competing in the final on September 23.

Keswani has been included in the 15-member UAE squad along with seamer Raja Akifullah Khan, who has returned to the UAE side. The right-arm pacer last featured in the T20I series against Afghanistan in February this year. The remaining 13 players have been retained from the UAE team that narrowly lost 2-1 to New Zealand in the Twenty20 series in Dubai last month.

It is heartening to note that eight of the current 15 members have come through the junior ranks, which means that they know each other from a young age and the bonding gets easier.

Lots of fun in the dressing room

“A lot of youngsters are in the squad and I have played with a couple of them in the Under-19 World Cup. It is a great feeling to be back with them in the squad,” added Keswani, who was in the under-19 squad that had Ali Nasser, Aayan Afzal Khan and Aryansh Sharma. “A lot of them are my friends and that makes it much more easier in the dressing room. But it’s not all about my friends. The senior players are really welcoming me and I have a lot of fun with them. It’s a nice environment in the dressing room and it’s going to be lots of fun.”

Waseem ECB-1694441508256
UAE skipper Mohammad Waseem celebrates during the hosts' win over New Zealand in Dubai last month. Image Credit: Source: ECB Twitter

UAE open their Gulf Cricket T20I Championship 2023 campaign against Oman on September 16, followed by Saudi Arabia the next day, Kuwait on September 19, Qatar on September 20 and Bahrain on September 22.

Keswani says he is confident of performing well in his maiden stint and looking forward to the Gulf Championship.

“I am not under pressure. I have been doing a lot of hardwork over the past one and half years and now it is about performing at the highest level. It’s about confidence. There are certain expectations you have to live up to, so I am looking forward to it,” added Keswani, who has also been part of the UAE A team against Nepal and Pakistan A.

UAE squad:

Mohammad Waseem (captain), Ali Naseer, Aayan Afzal Khan, Ansh Tandon, Aryansh Sharma, Asif Khan, Basil Hameed, Junaid Siddique, Muhammad Faraazuddin, Muhammad Jawadullah, Nilansh Keswani, Raja Akifullah Khan, Sanchit Sharma, Vriitya Aravind and Zahoor Khan.

Support staff: Amjad Ezzi (manager), Mudassar Nazar (head coach), Ahmed Raza (assistant coach), Azharuddin Qureshi (strength and conditioning coach), Karthikeyan Rathinam (analyst) and Manish Pardeshi (physiotherapist).

UAE matches:

September 16: Oman vs UAE

September 17: UAE vs Saudi Arabia

September 19: Kuwait vs UAE

September 20: Qatar vs UAE

September 22: UAE vs Bahrain

Final: September 23