UAE team
UAE players will be hoping to live up to their expectations in the Twenty20 Premier Cup in Oman. Image Credit: Source: ECB

Dubai: New UAE coach Lalchand Rajput didn’t have the best of the start to his stint at the helm, but the former Indian opener is unperturbed and exudes confidence that the Muhammad Waseem-led team will do well in the Twenty20 Premier Cup 2024, qualifiers for next year’s Men’s Asia Cup, to be held in Oman in April.

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Twenty20 is UAE’s strong point, but still Rajput has laid out his two-point norms as the team embarks on a mission to book a place among the Asian elite.

Lalchand Rajput

“In Twenty20, we have to play aggressively and at the same time we have to make sure that we get a big score, that’s important. To achieve that, I specify two things to the team. First, a set batter should not throw his wicket and has to bat deep into the innings and secondly partnerships are important, which then makes it easy for the team to get big score. These are the two areas we are looking to improve in Twenty20,” said the 62-year-old.

Prolific opener Muhammad Waseem will lead the 14-member UAE team that will compete in Group B along with Kuwait, Bahrain and Cambodia in Oman.

UAE will take on Kuwait in their first match on April 12 and play Bahrain on the following day, and face Oman on Saturday and Cambodia in their final group game on April 17.

The group matches will be followed by semi-finals, where the top two teams from Group A and Group B will compete and the winners of the April 21 final will qualify for next year’s Asia Cup.

Developing mutual trust

The UAE has not had the best results in recent times, losing the 50-over Cricket World Cup League 2 matches against Canada and Scotland and winning one of the three-match Twenty20 series against Scotland.

Rajput feels it takes time for a new coach to blend with the team before starting to produce results.

“Actually, when a new coach takes charge, it takes time for him to get accustomed to the players. The main aspect is that it takes time to develop the trust between the coach and the players. The first series was not that great, but I’m sure the boys now know what I expect from them,” added Rajput.

UAE Under-19 team captain Aayan Afzal Khan must be one of the young players coach Lalchand Rajput must be banking on in Twenty20. Image Credit: Source: ECB

“We had a very good skill camp in preparation for the Premier Cup, where we worked on fitness. We are also working on improving the temperament to bat long, especially in 50 overs. So we have to play more two-day and three-day games to improve the art of building the innings. And for bowlers if they bowl 20 overs in a day, then bowling 10 overs in a 50-over game becomes easy. For that you need fitness, which is all interlinked. I am sure we will improve and get better over a period of time.”

Two uncapped players

Due to the busy schedule, the UAE players will have to wait until the middle of this year to play the longer formate as the UAE will be once again playing in the 50-over League 2, qualifiers for the 2027 World Cup.

The team is again a blend of youth and experience. In the 14-member UAE squad, middle-order batter Vishnu Sukumaran, who has represented the team in two ODIs, has earned his first T20 call-up, while wicketkeeper-batter Muhammad Haider Shah and leg-spinner Muhammad Farooq are the two other uncapped players in the squad.

In preparation for the Premier Cup, the UAE played a three-match series against Hong Kong at the ICC Academy and will be leaving for Oman on Wednesday.

UAE squad
Muhammad Waseem (captain), Aayan Afzal Khan, Alishan Sharafu, Ali Naseer, Asif Khan, Basil Hameed, Junaid Siddique, Muhammad Farooq, Muhammad Haider Shah, Omid Rahman, Rahul Bhatia, Raja Akif, Tanish Suri and Vishnu Sukumaran.

Fitness levels and good attitude

“I want to have a good blend of seniors and juniors to inculcate the juniors into the team. When they play alongside the seniors, they learn a lot. At the same time we have to introduce a lot of young people because T20 is a format that requires young legs. If you are good fielding side, you can always put pressure on the opposition. So we are emphasising on having young and energetic people and the key areas we are looking at players are their fitness levels and good attitude,” he added.

Though both the whiteball formats require good fitness and attitude, Rajput feels the different format require different skillsets, hence he is supporting the idea of having different sets of players for different formats.

“We can’t have one set of players playing both the formats because in 50 overs you require players who have got a lot of concentration and temperament to bat differently. In regards to the bowlers, they look at bowling dot balls in T20, while one needs to get wickets in 50-over format. It requires completely different mindset and I am trying to get there,” he concluded.

UAE’s matches in Premier Cup:

April 12: UAE vs Kuwait

April 13: UAE vs Bahrain

April 15: UAE vs Oman

April 17: UAE vs Cambodia

April 19: Semi-Finals

April 20: Third position match

April 21: Final