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UAE just a win away from T20 World Cup berth

Abu Dhabi: Hosts UAE is just a win away from booking their tickets for the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh and have two opportunities to do so — beat Netherlands on Wednesday or win the match against the winners of the playoff between Scotland and Italy.

The only time UAE had managed to qualify for a World Cup was in the 50-overs format in 1996 and since then, it has been a struggle. They are again on the threshold of writing history that could change the face of the sport in the country.

However, the T20 qualifiers have already seen some shock results so far and coach Aaqib Javed has warned his wards against complacency. “In T20, anything can happen. You saw the other day how we were shocked by Italy. Some of their top order batsmen got going and we just couldn’t get them off our back. Against Ireland, we lost a close match and against USA, we showed we can come back strongly. The boys have to be at their best and they will give their best against Netherlands,” asserted Javed after a training session yesterday.

Asked if the UAE are trying to create waves with a bunch of old war horses who are past their prime. Javed begged to differ: “Yes, a couple of players are above 40 but what matters is how fit they are. To me, this is the best set of players we have and they have performed well. Experience plays a great role and of course, fitness is a must. If players can keep that balance, then age is not a factor,” said Javed, adding that their captain Khurram Khan, 42, was one of the ‘fittest’ among the lot.

Though Javed is keeping a close eye on the progress of the UAE U-19 team that would be playing in the World Cup at home soon, he was of the view that it will be wrong to push them early into the big league. “To play at this level, I would say they are a bit raw. They will need time and will have to work on their strengths. Their progress is being monitored closely as they are the future. We have regular camps and they will definitely be given a look at some stage. Their chance will also come,” revealed the former Pakistan pace spearhead.

Unlike Javed, his counterparts are banking on the youth to provide them with a passage to the sporting showpiece where they had figured way back in 1996. “We have set our sight on the youth and most of the players here are in the age group of 19 to 26. This, I feel is the best thing keeping in mind the future. We will also be going for the 2015 World Cup qualifiers in New Zealand soon after this. So the focus is on building a strong team looking ahead,” said Netherlands team manager Ed Van Nierop.

UAE is no stranger for the Netherlands as they have played the hosts before in the ICC World Cricket League Championship in 2012 and had success against them as well. “We have played them [UAE] and so we are well aware that they have some senior players in their ranks. I feel one can’t buy experience but we have a good blend of both. Our fitness level has been better as lot of emphasis has been put on that. I’m confident my wards can put up a good show against the UAE,” said coach Anton Roux, adding that, his aim was not just qualifying for the T20 World Cup but was going as far as possible.

“Although we are aware that we are just one step away from a qualification, our aim is to go as far as possible in the tournament and that’s why I’m always looking at one match at a time.

“We have a long batting line-up and have managed to give some players opportunities. Those who have got, have also made it count. I’m banking on them to give a favourable result tomorrow.”