For associate members of the International Cricket Council in the Gulf region, April is a crucial month.
Both the Asia Cricket Cup and the ODI World Cup’s qualifying outcomes are up for grabs. The UAE made it to the final stage of the qualification process for the 2023 ODI World Cup earlier this month. The men’s teams of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain, as well as four other Asian teams, will compete in the Asia Premier Cup during the second qualifying stage for the finals of the Asia Cricket Cup.
The stakes are high because only the winning team will compete in the Asia Cup alongside the five full ICC Asian members. As if each qualifying stage were a separate competition, their names can cause confusion.
The Asia Premier Cup will be held in Nepal, where fervent home fans will try to propel their team to greater heights. The winners and runners-up from each of the ten teams will advance to the semifinals after being split into two groups of five.
Saudi Arabia is in Group A along with Malaysia, Qatar, Nepal, and Oman, which will play on April 20, 22, 24, and 26. Each of these opponents is difficult and experienced. Kuwait, Bahrain, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates make up Group B.
After regaining its form just in time, the latter team will be under the greatest amount of pressure to win. In the final stages of the League 2 qualifying round for the ICC ODI World Cup in 2023, this completely vanished.
Seven misfortunes in the last 10 games, finishing in a disputable match against Nepal on Walk 16, sentenced the UAE to 6th spot out of seven, placing its ICC status in peril. The reason for the decline was hard to see from a distance. However, it was not unexpected to learn that the Director of Cricket, Robin Singh, would not be staying on after that defeat.
In the middle of 2020, Singh began his stint. Among his first accomplishments were victories over Ireland, a full member who played Tests, and qualification for the T20 World Cup in Australia. Maybe, therefore, assumptions had been elevated excessively. Singh was consolidating his job with that of being an individual from the Mumbai Indians training group in the Indian Chief Association, the beginning of which has conflicted with the UAE’s condition of emergency.
This has been particularly perceptible in the group’s batting, with an obvious nadir against Papua New Guinea on Walk 5 when they were excused for 97. Worse came a week later when Nepal defeated the UAE for its lowest ever ODI score of 71 runs.
Mudassar Nazar, a former Pakistani all-rounder who appeared in 76 Test matches and 122 one-day games for his country, has been appointed as an interim captain. He has held a number of positions in coaching and administration, including head of the Emirates Cricket Board’s National Academy program and head coach of the UAE’s under-19 team. So, when the players needed him, he was a familiar face.
They answered in noteworthy design. If they didn’t finish in the top three in League 2, they wouldn’t be able to participate in a play-off qualifier with five other teams in Namibia between March 26 and April 5. The batters of the UAE returned to form, scoring over 200 in each of the five matches, four of which they won, putting them behind the US in second place.
The US team won the head-to-head match against the UAE, putting them in first place despite having equal points. Despite this, the one-day international status was maintained, which was significant due to the continued opportunity to compete against elite teams and the receipt of ICC funding.
By scoring 297 runs from the middle-order batting position, Asif Khan exemplified the shift in batting fortunes. Another Khan, Ali, highlighted noticeably for the US, guaranteeing 16 wickets at a normal of 12.37, including seven for 32 to obliterate Jersey’s innings. In that match, the use of derogatory language and gestures as well as inappropriate physical contact brought out the tensions that are common in qualifying tournaments with such high stakes.
Two players from the United States, including Khan, who received a demerit point, and one player from Jersey, who was fined 15% of his match fee, were found to have violated the ICC’s code of conduct. He will miss the team’s next two matches, either T20 or ODI, when he adds up his previous three penalties. He seems to be a good example of fiery fast bowlers.
The US team will be hoping that these two matches won’t fall on the same weekend as the final World Cup qualifying tournament, which will be held in Zimbabwe in June and July. Out of the ten teams, nine have been confirmed: Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, the Netherlands, Scotland, Oman, Nepal, the United Arab Emirates, and the West Indies
This is a potent lineup, which will be bolstered by the tenth team, either South Africa or Ireland, whose team must win all three matches in a series against Bangladesh in May. This competition will feature fierce rivalries between teams that have met frequently over the past two years, sometimes not in a harmonious way.
It is hard to believe that the two teams that make it to the finals in India will not be made up of all four members. The associate members will be hopeful that they can upset someone along the way to demonstrate their progress. Experience of playing against more grounded groups will prompt improved procedures, more prominent commonality in managing pressure circumstances, and expanded certainty to contend at a more significant level.
This will be the situation for the Saudi team as it enters the unknown in Nepal’s frigid climate to face Asian competitors with significantly more one-day cricket experience. It is yet another progressional stage.