John Davison, Canada's captain, will miss the crucial Intercontinental Cup finals in Sharjah after failing to persuade South Australia to release him to play. He advised the Canadian selectors of the news last week. New Zealand-based Ian Billcliff will lead the side instead.

"His absence from the team at the crucial Intercontinental Cup semi-finals and the final games is a stunning loss to the players and the Canadian cricket at large," Ben Sennik, the Canadian board's president admitted. Davison was torn between country and state, and as he is struggling to secure a first-team place with South Australia, he felt that missing two Pura Cup matches would not help his cause.

There was further disappointment for the selectors when Ashish Bagai, the first-choice wicketkeeper, also withdrew. In his case he is not able to take time off from university. Ashif Mulla was called up in his place.

Billcliff was determined to remain upbeat despite the two absentees. "The unavailability of JD will be a definite blow," he told the board's website. "Having said that, it gives others in the team an opportunity to make their mark".

Canada squad Ian Billcliff (capt), Umar Bhatti, Desmond Chumney, Austin Codrington, Sunil Dhaniram, Haninder Dhillon, Don Maxwell, Ashif Mulla (wkt), Ashish Patel, Jason Patraj, Kevin Sandher, Zubin Surkari and Sanjayan Thuraisingam.