Coach Brown wants UAE's focus on '600 events' a game

'Qualification for World Cup will be the perfect legacy to leave' (2:49)

UAE coach Dougie Brown on coaching an Associate side and his goals with the team (2:49)

Of all the teams in Windhoek this week at WCL Division Two, perhaps none has a bigger target on its back than UAE. Out of the four teams sent back from the WCL Championship to compete in a de facto repechage event - WCL Division Two - to reach the World Cup Qualifier, UAE had the second-best record at five wins and nine losses. They also are the only team in Namibia with ODI status.

They also arrived with the best momentum possible out of any of the teams in this tournament, winning four of their last six in the WCL Championship. A big reason for the turnaround in fortunes - after losing seven out of their first eight matches in the tournament - was the arrival in early 2017 of head coach Dougie Brown, the former England and Scotland international.

Brown's presence in Namibia for Division Two with UAE is a return to his early coaching roots. Through most of his 23-year career as a county cricket pro with Warwickshire, contracts only covered seven months of the year when the English season was in action. The other five months, players pursued alternate ways to supplement their income. Between the end of his nine-match England career in 1998 and requalifying for his second career with Scotland in 2004, one of the gigs he took up during the northern winter was joining the Namibia coaching staff for the 2003 World Cup in South Africa.

"Being part of the 2003 World Cup as a coach when I was still actively playing was one of the best things for my career because it kind of reminded me of the fundamentals that I needed to be applying to my own game," Brown tells ESPNcricinfo. "Working with the Namibia players, I don't think they'll mind me saying that their starting point, although they were very talented, was incredibly raw.

"You wouldn't expect anything else really. Everybody worked. There were people taking their police uniform off or bank clothes off and coming to train, and we had to go on an enormous journey. A lot of it was based around just applying the basics of the game.

"It reinforced many of these things to me as a player. I went back to Warwickshire on the back of that and had probably my best season ever with over 1000 runs and [36] wickets. We won the Championship in 2004 and my contribution was significant towards Warwickshire winning the County Championship. I do thank the Namibian players for helping to reinforce everything they were trying to do in their own game."

Sitting down for a chat with Brown, it's clear that experience with Namibia helped transform his approach for nearly everything after. It's all about preparation and process, not the result. Helping Scotland win the 2005 ICC Trophy and going to the World Cup in 2007, his personal career highlight, was all about process. After coaching at Warwickshire following his retirement as a player in 2012, he was replaced by former team-mate Ashley Giles as director of cricket in 2016, opening the door for his move to UAE where he stresses to his players that success is not about winning a match, but winning each delivery, itself a contest within a match.


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"As a player, I was never a massive one for saying, 'We must win this game. We must win at all costs' - that puts unnecessary pressure on you as a person," Brown says. "We know we need to win the game but the coaching staff, we need to take that pressure off because pressure is a bad thing. We know what pressure is on us here and if I was playing in this tournament, I would just want to be encouraged to go play my natural way.

"Be intuitive, to trust the training, to do what we know we need to be doing. Reinforce that stuff, the things that we knew coming to Namibia we'd have to do as batters and bowlers, reinforce the process and hopefully the outcomes look after themselves. We as a coaching team have spoken about that. It's just making sure we don't look too far ahead of where the game is actually at."

After a first day shellacking delivered to Kenya, UAE fell to Canada in a tight contest. After losing a crucial toss to Nepal, they were bowled out cheaply on their way to a second defeat.

"There are no favorites in a tournament like this, if I'm honest, because it is really, really volatile. Anybody can beat anybody," Brown says. "You'll see when you go to World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe next month that anybody can beat anybody. It'll be interesting to see how the perceived favourites in that competition deal with that because there are a number of very good teams there, as there are here. Canada are coming here probably with very little expectation but they've won their first few matches - in effect a Division Three side coming and outperforming two Division One sides [UAE and Kenya]."

Brown says his coaching staff is treating each of the remaining games as a tournament final, needing to win them all to qualify for the World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe, though they are still in excellent shape on the tournament's net run rate tiebreaker. However, it's the game within the game that he wants the players to stay focused on instead of the bigger picture.

"Our guys got wrapped up looking to the skies [against Canada] and working out Duckworth-Lewis calculations. Let's be honest, in Dubai you don't really need to worry about Duckworth-Lewis because it doesn't rain. We took our eye off the ball and that's a lesson for me, a lesson for the players. From here on in, it's about process. Let's just win the ball.

"There's 600 events over the course of every single game. The only thing that we need to worry about is winning that first event, whatever it is, when we get into the game. The game will look after itself if we concentrate event on event 600 times and try and win more than the opposition."

Despite the pressure to not just keep ODI status but to also advance to the Qualifier, UAE's players remain incredibly relaxed at pre-match training sessions. Roaring laughter is a constant presence across the outfield during warm-ups, with Brown encouraging everyone to remain loose. Part of the rapport he's been able to build up with the UAE squad coming as an outsider from the UK is something he credits to being exposed to coaching opportunities in Warwickshire and more broadly through Birmingham and the Midlands where there is a strong south Asian presence.

"Warwickshire is a very multicultural place too," Brown says. "The age-groups team which I was involved with a lot is full of the same dynamic. So I was very mindful of respecting the culture that I was coming to both from an Emirati perspective and also a South Asian perspective."

The stability he has brought to the role has also had an impact on improved performances. After Aqib Javed's tenure as UAE coach ended, the team went through a series of interim coaches including Owais Shah and Paul Franks, and the constant shuffling had an unsettling effect. But Brown's positivity and constant presence has enabled many players to concentrate much easier on refining their games as Brown hopes to lead them to a second consecutive World Cup appearance.

"What would impact this team more than anything would be to qualify for a World Cup. Now whether we do or we don't, we'll find out this week. That would be a phenomenal legacy to leave but some part of that we might not be able to control. What we can control is individual performances. Where were players before and where are players now?

"I think I'm right in saying that 18 months before I arrived, we had one person scoring a hundred of any meaning and that was Shaiman Anwar. I think in the last year we've probably had 10 hundreds and five or six five-fors. Individuals are improving. We know that. As a team, we are evolving but the only way that we can actually judge it is how we do in qualification for global events. Qualification for this global event is actually very difficult because of where our starting point was."

Though the challenge is stiff, both at Division Two and in the Qualifier if they reach there, Brown believes the experience of being battle tested under pressure in so many promotion, relegation and qualification events is an advantage the Associate teams have. It's something he believes UAE and other Associates can exploit if and when they get to have a crack at West Indies and Zimbabwe next month.

"For all the coaches and everybody who is in a support role here, we know what pressure is on the back of qualification or non-qualification here," Brown says. "We know what may lie on the end of it. That is what Associate cricket is. But we've got to make sure that we take as much off the players as we possibly can do. Even when you lose games, again, you still need to be looking to make sure that we're the ones taking responsibility for that and not the players.

"What will be really interesting is that the likes of the West Indies and Zimbabwe have never been in this position where they've had to qualify for a global event. They will now understand what it is to be an Associate player when they go into the event in Zimbabwe next month, and it'll be really interesting to see how they respond to it because pressure does funny things to everybody."