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UAE head coach Aaqib Javed said the team was "ready to go" for the upcoming global cricket showpiece despite questions being raised over the change in captain with just over a month to go for the event.
Dubai-born Mohammed Tauqir was installed as captain of the UAE national team for the ICC Cricket World Cup replacing Pakistan-born Khurram Khan who had been at the helm for the past seven years.
UAE officials justified their decision on the basis that the sport needs to grow amongst local Emiratis and not just feed off expatriate talent.
"We've had a fantastic 2014 and ready to go," said Javed, a World Cup winner with Pakistan in 1992, believes the leadership change would not affect the team as they begin final preparations for the February 14 to March 29 event.
“The team has been working extremely hard and I am encouraged by the progress made in overall fitness, skill and confidence. The players are excited about the prospects of facing the world’s leading teams at the ICC Cricket World Cup, and have the ability, potential, and most importantly, the mindset to take on tough opponents," said Javed who has moulded a side comprising expatriate workers mainly from the Asian sub-continent into a professional unit.
UAE are playing in the World Cup for the first time since 1996 and was led by another Emirati Sultan Al Zarawani.
"I'm very honoured at the same time a challenge also," said Tauqir on his appointment as captain.
"He (Khurram Khan) was the first person to congratulate me. He is our premier batsman. I'm happy to have him as my deputy," he added.
He refuted suggestions that he had been thrust into the captaincy and is making a comeback of sorts.
"Yes, I took a short break because of work commitments in 2013 but I was playing domestic cricket, keeping myself fit and doing my training. So it was not like I announced my retirement. I'm with the team since last July and toured Australia," said Tauqir, 43, who will become the oldest player at the World Cup.
Indeed, he is not a mere figure head. In November he became the oldest player to make a ODI century when his 132 helped the UAE to victory over fellow World Cup qualifiers Afghanistan.
"He is one of the best off spinners in the country and has played 50 one-day internationals," said Mazhar Khan, a veteran cricket administrator in the UAE who will accompany the team as manager.
"We had a good tour of Australia where we were very competitive and we beat Afghanistan 3-1 in a recent series. We also did well at home against Pakistan A as well, beating them in two of the five matches,” added Tauqir who was confident they could spring a couple of surprises at the tournament.
The UAE have been placed in a tough Group B, which includes defending champions India, Pakistan, West Indies and South Africa.
The Emiratis begin their campaign against Zimbabwe on February 19 before meeting fellow Associate members Ireland on February 26 in their second game.
This will be followed by matches against India (February 28) and Pakistan on March 4.
UAE team will start the World Cup tour with two warm-up games against Australia and Afghanistan on February 11 and 13 in Melbourne.
Underlining its commitment to promoting cricket in the Middle East and defining its credentials as the home of cricket, OSN, further extended its partnership with Emirates Cricket Board as the Official Sponsor of the UAE National Cricket Teams for 2015.
OSN will mark the extended partnership with live coverage of the upcoming ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 being held in New Zealand and Australia.
David Butorac, CEO of OSN, said: “The extended partnership to the UAE National Cricket Teams underlines our commitment to nurturing and promoting national cricketing talent. As the definitive home of cricket, OSN is not only focused on bringing high quality telecast of all leading international matches but also in creating a tangible platform to celebrate the next generation of talent in the UAE and the region. The UAE National Cricket Teams are marking their steady advancement in the international circuit and OSN will bring all the action live and in true high definition to the home audience.”
David East, CEO of Emirates Cricket Board, added: “We are proud of our teams with the members giving their heart and soul to the game. Now, we are all looking forward to their performance at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. They have made strong progress following the qualifiers and they are aware of the tough task ahead. The support of OSN comes as a strong motivation for the team as they know their performance reaches their fans and friends in the UAE through a seamless live telecast. The support from the region is their inspiration to deliver their best.”
The UAE national team will leave for New Zealand on January 29 and OSN will bring all the action, right from their practice matches through to the ICC Cricket World Cup games.
UAE World Cup squad: Mohammad Tauqir (captain), Khurram Khan (Vice Captain) Amjad Ali, Andri Berrneger, Shaimon Anwar, Swapnil Patil, Amjad Javed, Rohan Mustafa, Krishna Karate, Mohammed Naved, Kamran Shahzad, Manjula Guruge, Saqlain Haider, Nasir Aziz, Fahad Al Hashimi.
Officials: Zayed Abbas (Chief Delegate), Mazhar Khan (Manager) & Aqib Javed (Head Coach).
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