'Don't see SA scoring 400 against us' - Tauqir
Mohammad Tauqir sprinkled his words with "a bit of humour" when he said the only way UAE would avoid conceding 400 against South Africa was if they batted first, but there was no joking around when he was asked what he really thinks of his team's chances against one of the pre-tournament favourites.
"South Africa can be put under pressure. I don't see them scoring 400 against us," Tauqir said.
South Africa's penchant for melting under the right amount of heat was exposed by Pakistan, whose performance in the field has inspired Tauqir to believe UAE can pull off something similar. "We know South Africa have a very strong batting line-up but I think you were all expecting South Africa not to lose against Pakistan. It gave us a bit of hope as well," he said.
So far UAE have been blown away against the bigger teams in their group but they recognise the need to put up a fight, both for their own benefit and to stake a claim for inclusion in future World Cups. "The more we play against Test nations or their A sides the more exposure we get, the better we become. We cannot learn by simply watching them on TV. We need to play more cricket against them," Tauqir said.
UAE have the least experience of the Associate nations at this World Cup and are hungry for more. Tauqir joined the chorus of voices calling for the ICC to rethink its plans to shrink the next World Cup. "In 1983, there were 10 [eight] teams at the World Cup. In 2019, after about 40 years, to still get 10 teams at the World Cup - what improvement have you made?" Tauqir asked. "I would agree with Sachin Tendulkar when he said if ICC would like to develop the game amongst Associate members, they need to give them more opportunities."
For Tauqir, a possible solution could lie in splitting the tournament into two tiers to give Associates a better chance of staying in the competition longer. "I heard Simon Doull saying the top six teams as per ICC ranking should be listed in Group A and the rest in Group B and whoever performs well can proceed to Group A. That's a good idea, that's a fair deal for the rest of the Associates," he said.
It sounds similar to the qualification process which was in place for last year's World T20 and would keep underperforming top tier teams on their toes as it gave the Associates an incentive to keep playing even though many of the cricketers are amateurs. "Everybody plays cricket for some ultimate goal, the World Cup is an ultimate goal," Tauqir said. " Everybody wants to be part of this event and would like to participate in this event. I hope and I request ICC to look into their decision and have many more teams in 2019 World Cup."
For now, UAE can only enjoy the experience of this World Cup as much as possible, because by the end of the week, they will be leaving. They would like to depart with a win, which Tauqir admitted may have to wait for their final match on Sunday, although it will be a massive bonus if it comes before that. "We saw Ireland beating West Indies and we are positive we can do that as well. But even for the South Africa game, we are positive," he said.
Even if they don't manage that, Tauqir said his team has gained a lot from their time at the tournament which he hopes will show when they next compete against other Associates. "The whole experience has been good for the team and the boys got a lot of confidence from this event. Going forward we've got World T20 qualifying in July and we are looking forward to that. This experience will give us confidence for our next games against other Associate nations."
Before they look four months ahead, Tauqir was asked to glance towards the end of March and reveal who he thinks will be the last men standing? "The way India has been playing, they have been consistent and it seems unbeatable. India seems to be a very strong side."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent