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Venkatapathy Raju urges UAE to grab chance to play Tests

Abu Dhabi: Venkatapathy Raju, the former Indian left-arm spinner and Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Development Officer, feels the Indian Premier League (IPL) will give a big boost to cricket in the UAE and even attract more Emirati nationals into the game.

Raju, who provides coaching and technical assistance for the UAE team, told Gulf News: “As local televisions and radio channels are highlighting, the arrival of the IPL in the UAE means there is every chance that nationals can be attracted into the game.”

With the International Cricket Council (ICC) announcing that associate and affiliate nations could soon get the chance to play Test cricket, Raju feels this a great opportunity for the UAE to step up to the next level.

“People always dream of playing Test cricket and, like we all say, Test cricket is the ‘actual’ cricket. The ball is in these countries’ [associate and affiliate nations] court and they should work hard and grab with both hands this opportunity and do well in the ICC Intercontinental Cup to become the best and clinch the opportunity to play Test cricket,” he said.

The UAE has performed well in Intercontinental Cup matches for the last two years, though they are yet to become champions, which would now give them an opportunity to play Tests.

Raju wants all countries to play two-day and three-day games, saying: “These countries are not used to playing two-day and three-day games now. The move to give them an opportunity to play Test cricket is a very good one. It can give a lot of encouragement for players, but initially five days of cricket will be tough for them.

“These countries should be invited by Test-playing countries to play local tournaments, like the Board of Control for Cricket in India once did. They invited Bangladesh to play [in the] Duleep Trophy [event] and also knockout tournaments. So the four top Asian teams should be given a chance to play in their domestic tournaments and then they will really improve.”

Raju also hailed the UAE’s achievement of qualifying to play in the 2015 World Cup and 2014 Twenty20 World Cup.

“[The] UAE making it to two World Cups is brilliant. They have worked hard under coach Aaqib Javed, who has done a great job with his support staff,” he said.

“It was a commendable effort, especially knowing how difficult it is to bring all the players together. Players come from Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai and get to train only after 7pm due to their job commitments, and still to make it to the World Cups is special. The players now look fit and it must have been a great experience for them in the Twenty20 World Cup. We are not expecting too many things from them, but it will motivate a lot of young guys who are coming in to represent the UAE.”