UAE taking correct steps to get cricket back on track after missing out on Asia Cup

Persistent rain in Malaysia’s Bandar Kinrara on Thursday put paid to the UAE reaching the Asia Cup on home soil after they were beaten by Hong Kong in a weather-affected final. (ICC)
Updated 06 September 2018
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UAE taking correct steps to get cricket back on track after missing out on Asia Cup

  • The UAE’s ICC rankings suggest they are better than teams such as Hong Kong, Oman and Nepal - and yet failed to qualify for the Asia cuP
  • The future looks much brighter off the pitch with the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) making all the right moves in recent months

LONDON: Persistent rain in Malaysia’s Bandar Kinrara on Thursday put paid to the UAE reaching the Asia Cup on home soil after they were beaten by Hong Kong in a weather-affected final.
But, in truth, bad weather cannot dampen the worrying sense that cricket in the Emirates is stuttering after a promising few years, and questions will now be asked about where cricket in the UAE is headed.
The cricketing landscape in Asia has changed considerably in a short space of time.
Afghanistan — with whom the UAE used to share associate member status — have flourished since gaining their Test stripes this year, and recently beat another former ICC associate member (Ireland) away from home.
With qualification for next year’s World Cup also secured, it is safe to say the game in Afghanistan is on an upward trajectory.
But things seem to have flatlined for the UAE since they qualified for the World Cup in 2015 — on the pitch, at least.
The UAE’s ICC rankings suggest they are better than teams such as Hong Kong, Oman and Nepal — all of whom they faced in this week’s Asia Cup Qualifier — but missing out on a place at Asia’s top table, as well as not reaching the World Cup next year, will definitely be seen as steps in the wrong direction.
However, the future looks much brighter off the pitch with the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) making all the right moves in recent months.
They secured the hosting rights for the Asia Cup in a deal with the Board of Cricket Control for India (BCCI) — the first time the UAE will host the tournament since 1995 — after it was announced in April that the BCCI would forego staging the event in India, because of ongoing tensions with Pakistan, and “host” it in the Emirates.
And further tapping into the popularity of the game among the UAE’s expatriates, the ECB announced the launch this year of the “UAE T20x” league, which will run from Dec. 19 to Jan. 11.
It will be a monumental step for cricket in the UAE, given the success stories of the Indian Premier League and Australia’s Big Bash League, not to mention that the event has already got the backing of seven full member nations, including England, New Zealand, South Africa and the West Indies, in addition to 12 ICC associate members.
“The number one aim of UAE T20x is to offer a developmental platform for the best young cricketers from around the world, and of course the UAE, to showcase their talent alongside the icons of the game,” Zayed Abbas, ECB board member, said last month.
“We want this new league to play its part in helping to grow the game,” he added.
And icons it will have, after England’s Eoin Morgan, South Africa’s David Miller and the West Indies’ Andre Russell all signed on to play. Nobody can deny that the ECB are certainly talking a good game.
The next step has to be putting pressure on the ICC, which has changed the format of next year’s World Cup, meaning it will be the first without an associate member — this move has been criticized for protecting the game’s elite rather than expanding its reach in nations such as the UAE.
If the steps taken by the ECB this year do achieve targets, foster a stronger cricketing culture in the Emirates, and results on the pitch begin to improve, the game in the UAE will be headed in the right direction once again.
By then, the ICC will have no choice but to sit up and take note.


Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

Updated 19 February 2019
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Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

  • It was Osaka's first match since she won the Australian Open — her second consecutive Grand Slam title.
  • World No. 67 Mladenovic lost for words after surprise win.

DUBAI: Naomi Osaka stumbled badly in her first match since winning the Australian Open as the world number one went down in a flurry of errors to exit the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.
Dubai-based Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic claimed a 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach the third round as Osaka made 25 unforced errors.
The rout, which featured seven breaks of the Osaka serve, took barely an hour, sending Mladenovic into a Wednesday contest with Carla Suarez Navarro.
“This is my home tournament, I live here,” world No. 67 Mladenovic said. “It’s great to get a win like this in front of a big crowd.
“Beating the number one is always special.”
The second set was riddled with seven consecutive breaks of serve before Mladenovic finished off the job with a winner to the empty court on match point.
Osaka stunned the tennis world last week by announcing her split from coach Sascha Bajin despite winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the US and Australian Opens.
She said earlier this week that she would not prioritize “success over happiness” when asked about the sacking, and she never looked like winning in Dubai as she also served five double faults.
Earlier on Tuesday, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova both won their opening matches, while Elina Svitolina made a strong start to her bid for a third straight title.
Kvitova, the 2013 winner, recovered from losing a first-set tiebreak to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4 and squeeze into the third round.
Halep, Dubai champion in 2015, saw off 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
The Romanian said she is still feeling the effects of her weekend final defeat in Doha by Elize Mertens.
“It was a good match because I won it. I tried to finish the points faster because I’m a little bit tired,” Halep said.
“She played well, the level was pretty good. At some points I really ran very well. I’m confident. I feel good on court even if I’m tired.”
A third former world number one also advanced as Angelique Kerber beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, said she was unfazed about the early midday start to her match.
“I don’t really care if I play the first match,” the Australian Open runner-up said. “Now I’m done, so I have a free afternoon.
“I’m not sure what I’m pleased with... maybe with my comeback at the end.”