Dubai: The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), governing body of the sport in the UAE, are looking to make a ‘slow beginning’ depending on when the sport can get under way after the jolt received by the coronavirus pandemic.
‘‘Not one sport was immune to the pandemic. We quickly acknowledged that we needed to adapt and be proactive with what we were able to control. We assessed this situation using a clean slate and this is a new beginning for us and our sport, a slow beginning,’’ said Mubashshir Usmani, General Secretary of ECB.
Speaking to Gulf News in an interview, Usmani said that while one only speculate as to when international cricket for Associate countries can get under way, the Board has drawn up a ‘‘comprehensive document’’ about their blueprint to return to the game. ‘‘There are exceptional circumstances influencing any restart of any calendar; regional travel, international travel, new rules of play, player and ground management - just to identify a few. With this in mind, in developing our pathway back to training and playing, we have finalised a comprehensive document, which incorporates ICC’s ‘Back to Cricket’ suggestions and guidelines that we, our councils, clubs and affiliates can follow.
‘‘While showing urgency (to resume cricket), we will alstiono take our time to be thorough, utilising the summer months to implement our plans to return,’’ he observed.
While the UAE senior national team had narrowly failed to qualify for the T20 World Cup 2020, the team under new skipper Ahmed Raza showed enough character after their build-up was hit by allegations of match-fixing against three senior players - whom the ECB summarily suspended. The Board appointed Lt Col (ret) Muhammad Azam Khan as Head of Security and Anti-Corruption soon after in October last year and followed it up with the appointment of Robin Singh, former Indian allrounder and a seasoned coach, as their new head coach in January.
‘‘Robin joined Emirates Cricket mid-January of this year and has been an active, integral voice in our collective planning for what we see as an exciting future since his appointment,’’ Usmani said.
What are the long term goals for the UAE national teams under the guidance of Singh? ‘‘It is vitally important not to over-complicate our next steps, our plans will be very strategic and focused. Robin has done thorough research into what our teams – Under-19, men and women’s – need to take their game to the next level and is in process of implementing his strategy, programs and systems.
‘‘Our broader goals are three-fold; the focus for our senior men is the ICC 2021 T20 World Cup and the ICC 2023 World Cup, for Under-19 team the qualification for the ICC 2022 U19 World Cup, as well as incorporate them into the system for the longer term. Finally, our focus for our Women’s team is to lift them to the top and be the number 1 raking side in Asia,’’ the ECB official said.
A long break in action as the current can be quite detrimental for cricketers - especially in Associate countries where a sizeable percentage of the cricketers are engaged in other professions.
Asked about their pursuits to keep the cricketers fit, Usmani said: ‘‘In conjunction with Robin and our High Performance Manager, an online ‘zoom’ training session schedule was developed and conducted three times a week bringing together our under-19 & men’s side virtually. Fitness challenges were also set to maintain their competitive edge.’’
Off the field, the ECB had been in the news recently when they offered their venues to the Indian cricket board to host the IPL 2020 as well as the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to complete the English season here. Acknowledging that they made such offers, Usmani said: ‘‘We have a proven record of being hosts as a neutral venue for various bilateral and multi-nation cricket activities in the past. Our state-of-the-art venues and facilities make the Emirates a desired place for hosting all types of cricket.
‘‘We have come forward and offered our venues to both England and India. In the past, Emirates Cricket has successfully hosted IPL matches in UAE. We have also hosted matches involving England team on multiple occasions previously. If our offer is taken up by either of the Boards, then we will be pleased to facilitate hosting of their matches,’’ he added.