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The UAE players preparing for the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup League 2 clash at the ICC Academy. UAE face Scotland in Texas today. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: UAE are resuming their dream towards qualifying for the 2023 World Cup as they take on Scotland and USA to strengthen their position in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup League 2 from today.

UAE, who are on third spot with 22 points, face second-placed Scotland, who are on 26 points with the same number of 18 games so far, while USA, the third team in this series to be played in Texas from today to June 4, are in fourth spot with 16 points. These three games in Pearland will assume great significance in UAE’s bid reduce the gap with Oman, even though UAE have played only half of their total number of games.

The main reasons for the team’s success is the level of fitness that these players have developed and the enhancement in their technical capabilities.

UAE pacer Zahoor Khan, who has been the pillar of strength for the team, especially in the death overs, will once again be the key as the fast bowler has been performing at the top of his game, despite playing almost 19 international matches in a 40-day period, which includes the qualification for the Twenty20 World Cup to be held in Australia later this year.

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UAE pacer Zahoor Khan has been the key for the team's success. The death-over specialist has been keeping his rivals under check. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

“I feel very good to be carrying on playing without any injuries and full credit to the coach, trainer and the physio, who have ensured all of us are in perfect condition. It’s not just me, the entire team is fully fit,” UAE’s ace pacer told Gulf News in an exclusive chat before leaving for Texas. “In the last one and half years, after Robin Singh became the coach, we have been playing a lot of 50-over games even during the summer months, that has made us fit to take on any gruelling schedule.”

Adapting to international standards

Zahoor has become a death-over specialist in both versions of the game and the Pakistan-born pacer, who has played under Misbah-ul-Haq for Faisalabad that had nine Test players, feels that variations are part and parcel of Twenty20 games.

“International cricket is a different ball game altogether. There was a lot of pressure in the first couple of games, but after that I started adapting to the level expected of me. While I use variations during my spell, my Yorkers were more beneficial to the team,” added Zahoor, who feels that numerous overs, around 45, he used to bowl in the four-day games in Pakistan has helped him to develop the required strength that has held him in good stead today.

All-rounder Basil Hameed, another senior pro in the team, also praised the coaching staff for keeping the team in fine fettle ahead of the busy schedule, which includes the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia in October.

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All-rounder Basil Hameed puts the team's cause ahead of his personal milestones. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

“In two months we have played about 20 international in different formats. It’s actually a challenge as an individual to represent the highest level and have that kind of fitness. The coaching staff have ensured that we played back to back matches. They had a big role in uniting us to get to the fitness level where we had to play at 40 degrees and train your heart out,” said the UAE all-rounder, who had played for Kerala in the India’s domestic Ranji Trophy and the age-group categories, and credits his formative years for his development as a cricketer.

Vital partnership

Basil, who has a Master’s degree in Marketing and Human Resources from Anna University, says he doesn’t have any personal goals, but would like to do his part in team’s fortunes. “It’s not about personal milestones, we have been taught in a way that team should come first ahead of individual performances. I look at the team performances and whatever inputs I can give at that particular point of time,” Basil added while thanking Globelink West Star management for giving him the time off work to play the game.

Muhammad Waseem, the UAE’s star opener, is eager to continue his impressive form in the 50-over World Cup qualifiers in Texas. The right-hander’s century was the cornerstone for UAE’s victory over Ireland in the final of the T20 World Cup qualifiers in Oman.

Talking about his 112, off 66 balls, at Al Ameerat, Waseem said: ”There was a lot of pressure in the final after we lost two wickets, then Rohan [Mustafa] and I talked about taking it some time to build the partnership, which went till the end. Thankfully, I scored well.” Waseem had put on a match-winning 141-run partnership with Rohan in 13.1 overs.

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Opener Muhammad Waseem, who scored a stunning century that helped the UAE clinch the final of the Twenty20 World Cup qualifiers in Oman, is now targeting a place in the 50-over World Cup. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Waseem is not willing to sit on his laurels and now targets 50-over World Cup to be held in India in 2023 and achieve his goals, the opener is willing to put more extra yards and is willing to take even more responsibilities.

Mutual admiration

“The 50-over games are different to Twenty20 matches. So after initial wickets, I try to play according to the situation and then attack at the right time,” he added and attributed some technical modifications that has helped him develop the consistency.

“The coaching staff has helped me a lot. Robin corrected some of my faults and that has helped me to develop my game. All the boys are putting in a lot of hardwork and now the goal is to qualify for the World Cup.”

It seems the admiration is mutual. Robin Singh had heaped praise on his players after the gruelling schedule. “The bowlers did a fantastic job throughout the tournament. Basil bowled exceptionally well. Hats off to the fast bowlers, Junaid, Zahoor and Kashif they all did a fantastic job,” Robin had said after the UAE leg of the series where the hosts won five out of eight games. However, the victories over the next few days will give the UAE the required momentum to move up the table.