Qualifying for the T20 World Cup was an obsession for our team and I am glad that we could do it, captain Ahmed Raza said.
Captain Ahmed Raza called it a surreal moment after his five-wicket haul helped the UAE complete a resounding 68-run victory over Nepal to book their place in the 2022 ICC T20 World Cup (October 16-November 13) in Australia.
The Raza-led UAE team have been relentless in their pursuit of a place in T20 cricket’s showpiece event, having delivered some outstanding performances in the ongoing qualifying tournament in Oman.
After ending their group campaign in second place behind Ireland, the UAE outclassed Nepal in the semifinal on Tuesday.
The UAE made an impressive 175 for seven in 20 overs, on the back of a fantastic half-century from Muhammad Waseem (70, 48 balls, 4 fours, 4 fours).
Vriitya Aravind continued his magical form with another crucial knock of 46 off 23 balls (5 fours, 3 sixes).
The crafty left-arm spin of skipper Raza (4-0-19-5) then reduced Nepal (107 all out in 18.4 overs) to rubble as the UAE set up a final date with Ireland, a team they had beaten in the group stages.
“It is a very emotional feeling. To lead the team to the Men’s T20 World Cup after six looming years. I fail to express in words the delight of playing a lead role in achieving our goal to qualify. It means a lot to us,” an emotional Raza said.
“Qualifying for the T20 World Cup was an obsession for our team and I am glad that we could do it. It was one of those days when everything clicked for us. It was one complete performance.”
Meanwhile, opening batsman Chirag Suri credited head coach Robin Singh for the remarkable turnaround in the fortunes of a team that failed to qualify for the 2021 T20 World Cup.
“The (50 overs) 2015 World Cup in Australia I did not make that team, so this was always the dream to play in a World Cup for me. And the guys have worked really hard in the last six months. Coach Robin is here and he has transformed the thinking of the boys,” Suri, who scored a magnificent 81 against Germany in the group stages, told Khaleej Times on Tuesday.
“I am very happy with the way I’ve batted. I want to continue this and now we have to work harder than before to compete in Australia.”
All-rounder Basil Hameed said the T20 World Cup qualification would not have been possible without contributions from each member of the squad.
“Obviously, it’s a dream come true to play in a World Cup, no doubt about that. It’s been a complete team effort from the whole crew. The trainer has made sure we are fit to go and our video analyst made sure we had watched enough videos of the opponents. And our doctor has done a wonderful job in helping us recover from each game,” Hameed told Khaleej Times.
“There is no secret to our success. I think the hard yards we all have put in in the last one and a half years was the key. And coach Robin, I have no words to describe him. We as a team are so lucky to have him with us.”
And Suri now wants to end the qualifying event on a high by beating Ireland in Thursday’s final.
“A win would be ideal before we come back to Dubai, we have won the last 3-4 games against Ireland, so boys are feeling good,” he said.
In the final, the UAE will be banking again on Aravind, the 20-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, who has been the star of the qualifying tournament with scores of 97 not out, 40, 84 not out and 46 in the team’s four matches.
“Vriitya, no praise is high enough for him,” Suri said.
“The way he has batted in this tournament has just been special. I haven’t seen a player so mature at his age. He has a very bright future.”