Cricket: Emirates to have taste of the high life

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The Independent Online
THE Australasia Cup, which begins in Sharjah today, gives the United Arab Emirates, who won the recent ICC Trophy in Kenya, their first chance to play one-day cricket in open competition at the highest level of the game.

The other five competing countries are India, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. The UAE have been drawn in the same qualifying group as India and Pakistan.

The UAE have been criticised because their side are composed almost entirely of expatriates from the subcontinent. Their side to play India in today's opening match comprise one Sri Lankan, two Indians, seven Pakistanis and one Arab, Sultan Zarwani, their captain. Born in Dubai, he has an Arab father and a Pakistani mother.

ICC regulations stipulate that anyone who plays for the UAE must, in each of the last four years, have spent at least 240 days within the Emirates. Immigrants from the subcontinent have made their lives in the Emirates just as a great many people of West Indian extraction have made their lives in Great Britain and a few now play for England.

International cricket was introduced to Sharjah 13 years ago because of the wealth and enthusiasm of Abdulrehman Bukhatir, an Arab who learned to love the game during his years at Karachi University. It is all, therefore, Arab-inspired.

The UAE won the ICC Trophy in style and there is a flamboyance about their cricket matched by their captain's new yellow Lamborghini. So far, the UAE have preferred to chase rather than bat first. From a brief glimpse in the nets it looks from their bowling as if they will be chasing a veritable mountain of runs if they pursue that policy against India and Pakistan.

They will find scoring runs against Test bowlers and trying to contain Test batsmen a rather different proposition. No one expects immediate surprises but this could be the start of a journey which eventually ends in elevation to Test status.