UAE cricket took a significant step towards full professionalism, with the Emirates Cricket Board granting two-year central contracts to eight of its players. A further four players, including captain Amjad Javed and vice-captain Shaiman Anwar, have been given annual, part-time retainers, but will continue with their day jobs.
The eight centrally contracted players include a number of young, promising players, with only Rohan Mustafa and Mohammad Shahzad having a significant amount of experience.
"For the first time in the UAE, we will have professional contracts," Emirates Cricket Board member Zayed Abbas told the National. "We are proud to say that, from today onwards, we are professional."
UAE have notched up notable successes in the past few years. Their runner-up finish in the Cricket World Cup Qualifier in January-February 2014 resulted in them qualifying for the 2015 World Cup and attaining ODI status. They also qualified - ahead of Afghanistan - for the Asia Cup earlier this year. These achievements have raised the profile of UAE cricket and unlocked the income that has made the move towards professionalism possible.
"It will definitely enhance their performances," UAE chief selector Waleed Bukhatir said. "Being full-time cricketers from morning to evening, they will be performing better and giving more to the ECB [Emirates Cricket Board], as opposed to being employed somewhere else and then coming in the evening and playing."
Bukhatir alluded to the possibility of the ICC reducing funding in future if, for example, UAE were to lose its ODI status, but insisted that the move towards professional contracts would withstand such eventualities.
"We need to work with the resources that are available to the ECB," Bukhatir said. "We do realise there is support that might not be there if the team doesn't perform. But we want to be optimistic. We were realistic in deciding on this programme. It is meant to continue, even if there were to be any cut from the ICC in terms of the financial support they give."