Dubai: It was a somewhat strange feeling for members of the UAE cricket team to not being able to greet each other with a handshake as they met after three months for a staggered training session in small groups on Sunday, but there was a big sense of relief to get back to business.
‘‘It was definitely a great feeling to be back at work. Was a bit strange that meeting our teammates after three months but still we can’t even shake hands. Having said that, we all understand and have trained our brains that this is the new normal,’’ said Ahmed Raza, the UAE captain. The players assembled in groups of five, masked and carrying their own kits and water bottles, at the indoor facility of International Cricket Council Academy (ICCA) to test themselves out with the help of bowling machines. After a day’s break on Monday, the players are again scheduled to assemble on Tuesday, even though it’s early days for the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) to announce a full-fledged practice schedule.
Almost all the players were unanimous that it would take a few sessions to shake off the rustiness and admitted they would have to take baby steps towards normalcy after the break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘‘Following the guidelines of ICC and Dubai Sports Council is absolutely important for the safety of all of us. Skillwise, I reckon a couple of sessions and cricket muscle memory will take over and then you forget about the fact that you haven’t played for three months. Really happy that we took our first step as a team towards normalcy,’’ Raza said.
Following the guidelines of ICC and Dubai Sports Council is absolutely important for the safety of all of us. Skillwise, I reckon a couple of sessions and cricket muscle memory will take over and then you forget about the fact that you haven’t played for three months
Chirag Suri, the UAE’s opening batsman, was candid: ‘‘Honestly, (it’s) just too good to see that we haven’t forgotten how to play the game,’’ before adding: ‘‘It’s been a long three months, probably the longest break I have had in seven years away from cricket but good to know I can still bat. It definitely feels good, that sound of bat hitting ball was definitely missed. We have to be cautious and slowly work our way in, increase intensity and workload gradually.
‘‘Practising in small groups helps you focus on what you want to work on and I feel everybody has to be clear on what they want to do and the goals we want to achieve. We are not sure of our ongoing schedule yet, so this is a time to really work on our skills and upgrade as a player as well as keep getting fitter. Cricket is a social distancing sport anyway we maintain enough distances while playing so it’s just about being cautious taking the precautions and getting back to work as normal,’’ he felt.
Aryan Lakra, captain of the Under-19 UAE team, said: ‘‘To be honest, it felt very different to what we have done in the past, training with masks on and maintaining distance felt odd. But I guess it will take a few sessions for us to get used to this. Skillwise I felt that we all need at least 4-5 sessions to get the juices flowing again and start playing how we used to. This way of training is going to stay (with us) for a while to it’s best we adapt (to it). I hope we can get back to the usual group training sessions as soon as possible.’’
Rohan Mustafa, veteran allrounder and a former captain, agreed that caution has to be the watchword for them in the coming days. ‘‘We were standing far from each other, it was difficult but we have to adapt. We don’t have any other option....we have to be very careful as most of us have families. It’s dangerous as if one person gets it, chances of spreading is there. Let’s see how it goes,’’ Mustafa added.