Ahmed Raza, Shaiman Anwar, Rohan Mustafa and Mohammad Naveed are four UAE internationals to play in the GT20 Canada
In a sport where Twenty20 cricket continues to go from strength to strength with various major leagues on the calendar, the UAE players have found opportunities hard to come by – until now.
The Global T20 Canada, due to begin on Thursday, will see Rohan Mustafa, Ahmed Raza, Shaiman Anwar and Mohammad Naveed aiming to fly the UAE flag high over the next fortnight after being selected during the draft earlier this month.
Before that, they have often been on the outside looking in whenever the major events are taking place. To date, only three UAE cricketers have been part of an international T20 tournament.
Chirag Suri is the most high-profile when he became the first player from the Emirates to be snapped up by Gujarat Lions in the 2017 IPL – although he was unable to get a single minute at the crease. Naveed has been involved in the Hong Kong T20 Blitz while Mustafa featured in a low-profile Nepal tournament in April where he was named player of the series.
With all the talent in the national team, it could have been more but the fact that Mustafa, Raza, Anwar and Naveed have all been recognised is a big boost not just for them but for the rest of their international team-mates.
All four are in real danger of missing the start of the league due to administrative issues to their visa applications but when they do arrive in Canada after a 14-hour flight from Dubai, expect them to make an impact.
They won’t be just there to make up the numbers. Naveed has established himself as one of the best pacers in Associate cricket and was once ranked 10th best in T20 cricket just nine months ago. Besides being lethal with the ball, he is also highly-rated by World Twenty20 winning captain Darren Sammy after the pair played in Hong Kong.
Mustafa has been one of the standout players for the UAE in the last 18 months, winning numerous personal awards for his efforts with the bat and ball. Spinner Raza has taken more 37 wickets in his 50 plus games for the UAE in this format, while Anwar’s stunning unbeaten 117 against Papua New Guinea is just a prime example of what he can do once he gets going.
Their familiarity of T20 which is widely played in the UAE will certainly be an advantage and with it being broadcasted globally, the cricketing world will be closely watching the tournament as well as keeping tabs on social media.
That’s because some of the biggest names in world cricket will be playing in North America. Chris Gayle, Shahid Afridi, Sunil Narine, Darren Sammy and Tim Southee are just some of the stars who will be in action, while there will be a lot of intrigue on how David Warner and Steve Smith fare on their first appearances since that ball-tampering scandal in March.
With the elite in town, it will be difficult not to ignore the Global T20 Canada, making it the perfect opportunity for Mustafa, Raza, Anwar and Naveed to press their case and put themselves and other UAE players in the window for future T20 tournaments.
With the way they have been performing in the last 18 months, there’s no reason why they can’t do the same against the world’s best.