World Cup 2015 a step in the right direction for UAE, who have their home
Before the start of the current ICC Cricket World Cup being held in Australia and New Zealand, most of the current generation of cricket lovers would not have kept abreast with the United Arab Emirates Cricket Team’s time at the World Cup.
Indeed, you’d even be forgiven if you didn’t know the UAE had previously appeared at the showpiece event. They made their competitive début in the tournament in 1996. In the Subcontinent, the UAE did win against the Dutch, but that was after losses at the hands of England, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa.
Fast forward 19 years and on the surface, it might seem like a case of history repeating itself. But here, as is always the case, the difference is in the details.
In 1996, bar that game against the Dutch, the highest score the UAE posted was 167, against the Kiwis. Two weeks ago, Shaiman Anwar became the first player from the nation to score a century in a World Cup, when he plundered 106 runs off just 83 deliveries against the Irish, almost singlehandedly matching the scores his country had put up all those years ago.
The UAE have come leaps and bounds this tournament, aided by the world-class facilities at the ICC Academy, regularly posting scores that would impress any lover of the sport. The efforts and dedication of Strength and Conditioning coach Peter Kelly, Head Coach Mudassar Nazar and High Performance Manager William Kitchen have reaped rich rewards on the pitch.
The Arab nation posted scores of 285 for seven against Zimbabwe, a nation that once reached the latter stages of the 1999 World Cup and made 278 for nine against an Ireland team that got people to stand up and stare in astonishment when they knocked out Pakistan from the 2007 edition of the tournament.
While there is of course much work to be done before the United Arab Emirates, there are a plethora of positives to their endeavours Down Under, least of all their ability to have gone toe-to-toe with some of international cricket’s elite.
Also witnessed at the World Cup was their mettle to last in alien surroundings, often under adverse weather conditions which is a testaement to their fitness and physical conditioning. Having witnessed first-hand their own ability at lasting out there, which is of prime importance before athletes are inculcated with the more subtler, technical aspects of the game, they know now that they can indeed succeed as a team in the future.
But it wasn’t just their corporeal capabilities that passed the test of the World Cup. Several of the UAE’s matches were close affairs that went down to the wire and could’ve easily ended up in their favour. That they came so close to tasting victory on more than one occasion will surely give them the mental capabilities to succeed in the future.
The men who respresented the UAE at the World Cup represent a multicultural, diverse nation that is only now seeing the results of a grassroots cricket programme. The exploits of men like Khurram Khan and Shaiman Anwar will only inspire a future generation of cricketers to put in that little bit more effort which they may have been lacking so far.
It’s not just back home, but across the Middle East that this team’s experiences will resonate. The only Arab nation to have so far sent a team to the World Cup, despite being one of the world’s smallest nations, the UAE’s presence in Australia and New Zealand could go on to see cricket bloom in the desert, spawning a new generation of cricketing nations: surely an unprecedented development in the evolution of the game.
While on the surface, therefore, the UAE’s time in the Antipodes might be seen by some as a failure, there are vastly more positives than negatives. Take a couple of steps back, and you too will see the bigger picture.
And it is beautiful.