It will be a busy time for UAE cricket.
First, the men’s team will take part in a tri-series against the United States and Scotland, which will host matches in Aberdeen from August 10-16.
These matches are part of the International Cricket Council 2 Cricket World Cup 2019-2023, which is part of the qualification process for the 2023 World Cup. After that, the team will travel to Oman to play, between August 20-24, the last qualifying spot for the 2022 Asian Cup. Third, whether the team qualifies or not, the UAE will host the Asian Cup.
This congestion of events reflects the ongoing recovery from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on international cricket schedules.
In League Two of the Cricket World Cup, seven teams will play 36 separate over-50 matches against each other in three-over series, with two runs awarded for a win. Oman have played all of their matches and lead the standings with 44 points. The next three places are occupied by Scotland, with 34 points from 24 matches, then the United Arab Emirates, with 26 from 22, then the United States, with 23 from 24. The upcoming matches are crucial for all three teams , as the top three will join five full member teams in a final qualifying stage. The league is due to end in February, but two three-series events, both involving the United Arab Emirates, have to be rescheduled due to being postponed during the pandemic.
The Asian Cup suffered severe disruptions. In December 2018, the Pakistan Cricket Board was awarded hosting rights by the Asia Cricket Council (ACC) for the 2020 Cup. This was not suitable for India, initially due to security concerns, later exacerbated by tensions policies. India’s participation was in doubt, a situation which was not helped by the claims and counterclaims of the respective parties. None of this mattered as the pandemic intervened and on July 9, 2020 the ACC announced a postponement until mid-2021. Thanks to a combination of the pandemic and India reaching the World Test Championship final, the event did not take place.
Since 2008, the Asian Cup has been scheduled every two years. Now that the 2020 edition will be held in 2022, there is a delay. In order to solve this problem, there will be a 2023 edition, for which Pakistan has obtained the hosting rights, after having exchanged its 2020 rights with Sri Lanka. This could have solved the problem of India not being ready to play in Pakistan. The ensuing political, economic and social upheaval in Sri Lanka led to the decision to transfer the tournament to the United Arab Emirates, although Sri Lanka retains hosting rights and the opportunity to earn much-needed income from about $6 million.
Another complexity exists in that the format alternates between editions. Until 2016 inclusive, the format was 50-over One Day International. It was decided that the 2018 edition would be played in T20 format, the 2020 edition as ODI and in 2022 again under T20 rules. The pandemic has disrupted this plan so, in order to put the sequence back in order, the 2020 Cup will be played in T20 format (in 2022) and the 2022 Cup in ODI format in 2023.
Officially, the upcoming tournament is billed as the 2022 Asian Cup, opening on August 27 and ending on September 11. The identity of the team that took the final berth is unlikely to be known until August 24.
The UAE will face Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuwait. Teams will compete once in a round-robin format, with the winner being the team with the most points. They will face the daunting prospect of joining India and Pakistan in Group A. This pair will face off on August 28 in what should be a spicy affair in Dubai. Group B will include Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The top two teams from each group will advance to the Super 4 stage.
After the turbulent weeks between August 10 and September 2 – longer if the UAE reach the Super 4 – the UAE men’s team will no doubt turn their attention to the T20 World Cup in Australia. There he will play his first group stage match on October 16. Its qualification for this tournament marks a major step forward for a team which reached a ranking of 11th in T20 cricket and 13th in ODI.
It’s no surprise that the Emirates Cricket Board also has ambitions to develop women’s cricket. On June 25, 2022, by defeating Malaysia in the final of the ACC Women’s T20 Championship, the UAE Women’s team equaled the world record for the longest unbeaten run in all of international T20 cricket.
That record of 20 games was set by England women in 2012. Going six matches unbeaten in the ACC tournament, the UAE side won all four of their matches against Hong Kong in April, after having won all five matches for the Gulf Cooperation Council women’s team. Gulf Cup in Oman in March 2022. The unbeaten run began in November 2021 in the Asian T20 World Cup qualifiers in Dubai, where the team won all five matches and advanced to the finals qualification for the 2023 World Cup, due to be held in South Africa in February.
The qualifying tournament will take place in Abu Dhabi from September 18-25, 2022. It will be contested by eight teams: Bangladesh, Ireland, Scotland and the United States in Group A; Papua New Guinea, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe in Group B.
The top two teams in the tournament will advance to the World Cup. After the qualifying tournament, the UAE women’s team will take part in the ACC Women’s Asian Cup in Bangladesh in October.
Those busy schedules reflect success through good coaching and planning. There is no doubt that cricket is booming in the UAE for both men and women, with no let up in prospect.