Dubai: The UAE Under-19 team have plenty of talent, but the one main component that they are lacking is the experience. The eight-nation Asia Cup Under-19 championship will provide them with the opportunity to test their mettle against the top sides from the continent.
“I see a big change in cricket in the UAE. Unlike the past, these boys are really equipped to play international cricket. These guys are well aware what is expected of them and what they are going to come up against. It’s a huge improvement in the players’ skills and the set up,” Mudassar Nazar, former Pakistan all-rounder and current UAE Under-19 coach, said.
The hosts are not taking this tournament lightly even though they consider the Asia Cup as a yardstick to test the team’s capabilities against the Group A teams like India, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“We will see how we perform against these teams and go to the West Indies fully prepared. We are not saying that we don’t want to win the tournament, but it will give us an indication. It is now time to go out and prove our mettle against the top sides.”
However, if there is one area concern for the coach when they take on India in the opener at the International Cricket Council (ICC) Academy grounds in Dubai, it is the lack of exposure for these young players at the highest level.
“What they do lack is the experience of playing international teams, so we are looking forward to this tournament. It is a premier tournament we are lucky that it is taking place just before the World Cup. We didn’t have any games against a noteworthy opposition, so this is very important. It gives us the chance to play against these sides whom we will confront in the World Cup and this will indicate where we are at against premier teams.”
UAE assistant coach Najeeb Amar, after the final training session at the ICC Academy, said: “All players are fit and fine and raring to go. They are excited to deliver the goods on the big stage.”
The UAE’s opponents in the first game is the Yash Dull-led Indians. Before leaving for the UAE, the under-19 team had an interaction with India’s white ball skipper, who is undergoing rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru.
The Indian board shared the pictures of Rohit Sharma addressing the team, who were preparing for the Asia Cup, on social media. Last week the Indian selectors named the squad for the World Cup and the same players will be playing in the Asia Cup in the UAE.
“Priceless lessons. #TeamIndia white-ball captain @ImRo45 made most of his rehab time as he addressed India’s U19 team during their preparatory camp at the NCA in Bengaluru,” the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) wrote along with the pictures.
Former India captain and now NCA head VVS Laxman thanked the star batter for taking time to talk to youngsters.
“A big thanks to Rohit Sharma for taking time from his rehab to talk to the Asia Cup-bound Under-19 squad at the NCA. I am sure the boys would have gained immensely from Rohit sharing his wisdom and experiences,” tweeted Laxman.
The Afghanistan team is ready and keen to play in the Asia Cup as most of the players are representing their country for the first time.
The UAE will be next playing against Afghanistan next on December 25. The new Asian Test-playing nation will be starting their campaign against Pakistan at the ICC Academy 2 on Thursday.
Talking about the opener, Afghanistan coach Rais Ahmed said: “Team is ready and keen to play in the Asia Cup as most of the players are representing their country for the first time. They are very excited as they know that if they do well in the under-19 level then they will be representing nation in the senior category. Some of the players like Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Rashid Khan and Najibullah Zadran were selected from the Under-19 teams.”
The coach said they have been preparing for this event over a long period of time and an initial player pool of 70 were finally brought down to 15. “The Afghanistan Cricket Board has selected the best side and the team will do something special,” he added confidently.
Rais Ahmed had high praise for chinaman bowler Noor Ahmad and picked leg-spinner Izharulhaq Naveed as the player to watch in the tournament. “He will become a star not just for Afghanistan but for world cricket,” he concluded.
ICC Academy, Dubai
Sharjah Cricket Stadium,
Dubai International Stadium
Dates: December 23-31
Group A: UAE, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.
Group B: Bangladesh, Kuwait, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
UAE v India at ICC Academy 1
Afghanistan v Pakistan at ICC Academy 2
Kuwait v Sri Lanka at Sharjah Cricket Stadium
Bangladesh v Nepal at Sharjah Cricket Stadium
UAE v Afghanistan at ICC Academy 1
India v Pakistan at ICC Academy 2
Bangladesh v Kuwait at Sharjah Cricket Stadium
Nepal v Sri Lanka at Sharjah Cricket Stadium
UAE v Pakistan at ICC Academy 1
Afghanistan v India at ICC Academy 2
Bangladesh v Sri Lanka at Sharjah Cricket Stadium
Kuwait v Nepal at ICC Academy 2
Semi-final 1: A1 v B2 at ICC Academy 1
Semi-final 2: B1 v A2 at Sharjah Cricket Stadium