In just 8 days the ICC Cricket World Cup kicks off in Australia and New Zealand. To countdown to cricket’s showpiece tournament I will be publishing a series of previews. Every day two new teams will be previewed, before I wrap up my preview by posting a final wrap-up. Today I preview the United Arab Emirates and Scotland, who will both look for their first ever win in a World Cup game. Enjoy.
UAE (Group B)
Fixtures: vs Zimbabwe, Saxton Oval, Nelson, vs Ireland, The Gabba, Brisbane, vs India, WACA, Perth, vs Pakistan, McLean Park, Napier, vs South Africa, Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington, vs West Indies, McLean Park, Napier.
Squad: Mohammad Tauqir (c), Amjad Ali (wk), Amjad Javed, Andri Berenger, Fahad Al Hashmi, Kamran Shazad, Khurram Khan, Krishna Chandran, Manjula Guruge, Mohammad Naveed, Nasir Aziz, Rohan Mustafa, Saqlain Haider (wk), Shaiman Anwar, Swapnil Patil (wk).
The UAE enter this tournament with no pressure being placed on them to perform. They will struggle in the tournament, especially because of a lack of matches at this level against the best teams. The side is very old, with over half the squad aged 30 or above. Only opener Andri Berenger is under 25, and this is a worry. Amjad Ali will open with Berenger, and Khurram Khan, Mohammad Tauqir and Shaiman Anwar keep the middle order together. Saqlain Haider and Swapnil Patil will share the keeping duties between them, and Kamran Shazad, Mohammad Naveed, Fahad Al Hashmi and Manjula Guruge, amongst others, lead the attack. Rohan Mustafa and Krishna Chandran can step in as all-rounders when needed.
While the UAE were able to beat Afghanistan in their previous ODI series, they will still struggle at this level. The choice of Tauqir as captain is more than a little bizarre, especially as he had not been in the first-team for some time before the naming of the squad. Khurram Khan, the man who was dumped as captain, had plenty of experience, and in the second match against Afghanistan scored 132 not out, the highest ODI score by an Emirati batsman. Even the selection of Tauqir in the squad is a dubious one, and his selection as captain simply beggars belief. It will be very interesting to see how the UAE play against some of the bigger nations, although I expect that they will struggle. They have some potential, but it will be very difficult.
Scotland (Group A)
Fixtures: vs New Zealand, University Oval, Dunedin, vs England, Hagley Oval, Christchurch, vs Afghanistan, University Oval, Dunedin, vs Bangladesh, Saxton Oval, Nelson, vs Sri Lanka, Bellerive Oval, Hobart, vs Australia, Bellerive Oval, Hobart.
Squad: Preston Mommsen (c), Richie Berrington, Kyle Coetzer, Frederick Coleman, Matthew Cross (wk), Joshua Davey, Alasdair Evans, Hamish Gardiner, Majid Haq, Michael Leask, Matt Machan, Calum MacLeod, Safyaan Sharif, Rob Taylor, Iain Wardlaw.
This is Scotland’s first major tournament for a few years, and they are fairly well-equipped to take on the challenges. The batting is strong, with Calum MacLeod, Preston Mommsen, Kyle Coetzer and Matt Machan all having stellar years, while players like Hamish Gardiner, Richie Berrington and Freddie Coleman will be along to support. Majid Haq, Josh Davey, Michael Leask, Safyaan Sharif, Iain Wardlaw and Rob Taylor make up the bowling attack, but the batting remains the main strong point. MacLeod and Coetzer form a dynamic opening partnership, and young prospect Gardiner will likely bat at three. Machan and Mommsen are experienced at 4 and 5, and Berrington should close out the batting at number 6.
While the batting line-up is well-rounded, the bowling is not in the same way. Berrington will most likely serve as a fifth bowler, but while some batsmen can fill in a few overs there is no particularly convincing other option. Wardlaw looks like the leader of the attack, but the other players seem to change around a fair bit. This lack of continuity could become slightly problematic, but the real issue is that no-one has come in and stamped down their place in the team. Scotland are certainly not the strongest of the associate nations, and will probably face a struggle to win any of their matches. They are, however, looking a stronger side than they’ve ever been, and they have as good a chance as any to take their first World Cup win, which has to be their goal.
Tomorrow: I look at Ireland and Afghanistan, who will be looking to impress in this World Cup.