August 31, 2013

'This is the best result in history for a UAE team'

UAE batsman Shaiman Anwar looks back at the successful tour of Canada and talks about the game in his country

You have played for the Sialkot Stallions in Pakistan. How does the standard compare to playing for the UAE?
There isn't much difference in standard. There is a difference in the level of commitment that cricketers from Test-playing countries have compared to cricketers from Associate or Affiliate nations. We've seen a difference in professionalism.

[As a player from an Affiliate team] you have to do a lot. You have to work hard and you have to learn a lot. But we are also given opportunities to learn. A time does come after learning so much that you reach a point of attaining perfection. We have high hopes of qualifying for the World Cup.

You've mentioned commitment - does not being a citizen of the UAE have an impact on how you and your team feel about playing for the country?
It depends on the coaches and how they treat us. We have a great spirit of togetherness in our team. You've seen the results on the field. Yes, we are from a country where we are not nationals, and look at this country [Canada], which has no such problems. People come here from all over the world and settle, because the basics of life and the standard of living are so good. The issue is really about commitment and professionalism, and that goes for any sphere of life. The guys have worked hard and the results are positive. God-willing, we will get where we want to go, but we will need to continue to work hard.

One advantage you do have over a country like Canada is the presence of world-class cricket stadiums in the UAE. What part, if any, does that play in raising the standard of the game in the UAE?
We do have good grounds, yes, but our domestic cricket standard is very high and the teams are strong. We don't feel too much of a difference going from domestic cricket to playing internationally. The slight difference is just in the protocols with officials and umpires, but everything else is almost the same, from the standard of cricket to the atmosphere.

Does the UAE team get support from cricket fans in the country?
We get a lot of support in the UAE. We get a lot of news coverage. We get everything. Of course, it also depends on how we do. When we're winning, it's great. People have expectations of us and we work hard to try to meet those expectations.

We are looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead. After the Emerging Teams tournament wraps up in August, Namibia are coming to the UAE to play us in the World Cricket League in September. Then there's the World Twenty20 Qualifiers, which we are hosting. After that we're off to New Zealand in January for the World Cup Qualifiers. So there's a lot of cricket in front of us.

You must be satisfied with your current personal form.
I am very thankful to the Almighty. I don't think I've ever played this well. I think the credit goes to the coach [Aaqib Javed] and the manager. It is because of these two individuals that we've done so well on this tour. This is the best result in history for a UAE team. As an Affiliate, we clean-swept a team with ODI status. Both the manager and coach have worked really hard to get us to this point. Aaqib Javed, for the past few months, put in a lot of effort. He often bowled for two hours at a time while working with the batsmen during practice. The result of that effort is for all to see.

What were you expecting from the team in Canada?
The team intended to win here. I wanted to score as many runs as possible. I have a very good record in domestic cricket in the UAE and the team had high expectations of me. I'm glad that I was able to perform to the standard that the team wanted to see, and that I wanted to deliver. I am very thankful that we won and I managed to score in both one-dayers, including an unbeaten hundred and a fifty. I hit a six to win the last game of the tour and it felt good to finish like that and get the result we wanted.

Faraz Sarwat is the cricket columnist for the Toronto Star and the author of The Cricket World Cup: History, Highlights, Facts and Figures

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