UAE skipper Rohit Singh after a hard work out at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium prior to the match against India in the Asia Cup Under-19 tournament commencing from Saturday. Image Credit: K.R. Nayar/Gulf News

Sharjah: The UAE take on India in the opening match of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Under-19 Asia Cup at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Saturday. The eight-team tournament will be played at the UAE’s top cricket venues, including Dubai International Stadium, Abu Dhabi Shaikh Zayed Cricket Stadium, the International Cricket Council Cricket Academy’s two Oval grounds, Abu Dhabi’s two Oval grounds and the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

The UAE are approaching the event with confidence, buoyed by playing in a triangular tournament involving England and Pakistan recently.

Speaking to Gulf News, captain Rohit Singh said: “We beat England and we came close to beating Pakistan in Abu Dhabi. Except for two bad games, we played pretty well and we are improving rapidly as a team, so we are very confident of putting up a good show in this tournament.”

The UAE team have been undergoing rigorous training under UAE national team coach Aaqib Javed. Commenting on the long and hard training sessions involved, Javed said: “The players used to wonder why I made them work so hard but now they have understood how it is working in their favour. The boys have been really doing well. All the hard work we have put in so far is paying off.”

Singh and all his teammates are thankful to Javed for giving them confidence to take on strong squads like India and Pakistan. “Not only Javed, but all the coaches have been working hard with us. My batting has improved very much and I scored two 50s against England and hit 40 runs against Pakistan. We created good partnerships. Our opener Chirag Suri also batted very well, giving very good starts. If three more of our batsmen click, we can beat any side,” said Singh, who is a UAE-born cricketer who shot to prominence through his performances in schools cricket for Delhi Private School and is now a student of Heriot Watt University in Scotland.

The UAE are in Group A along with India, Pakistan and Nepal. Group B has Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Malaysia.

“Javed has told us to use positive words, stay positive always and think positive, and it is working very well for us,” said Singh, who idolises India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and batsmen Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar and South Africa’s AB de Villiers.

“This tournament will be a great exposure for all of us before the upcoming Under-19 World Cup. After the tri-series, we know where we stood because if we had played directly in the World Cup without these two tournaments we would have been under pressure. We now feel confident to compete,” said Singh, who began training at the Sharjah Cricket Academ from the age of 10 and went on to represent Sharjah Club and Phoenix Medicines in domestic tournaments.