Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Asif Khan hopes to kick on again at ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier

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Photo Credit: ICC

In-form Asif Khan has his sights set on ending United Arab Emirates’ eight-year wait for a place at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup.

The UAE are looking to seal just the third qualification in their history, and their first since 2015, at the upcoming ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe.

They must navigate a group including Sri Lanka and Ireland before tackling the Super Six, where the top two sides will book their tickets to India.

Khan was integral for his side at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off in April, top-scoring with 296 runs across the tournament including a century against USA and 96 in what turned out to be a crucial victory over Namibia.

And the 33-year-old is taking plenty of heart from those showings, as well as UAE’s run to the final of the ACC Men’s Premier Cup, ahead of the action beginning in Bulawayo.

He said: “Our preparations are going well. We are looking forward to making winning combinations in the warm-up matches as this will be helpful for us in qualifiers.

“My personal perspective is always positive. My form is good, I am trying to deliver 100% in the Qualifier, and I am confident.

“We are very pleased and gained confidence from the win against Namibia, in Namibia. We played very well, and we are going with the same mindset in the Qualifier as well.

“Our key factor is our commitment. We played well in Nepal and Namibia, so we are trying to keep this momentum in the Qualifier.

“Our expectations are always positive and we believe in ourselves.”

If the UAE are to successfully navigate the Qualifier, they will need middle order batter Khan to repeat his Windhoek heroics and pile on the runs once more.

Khan has been in fine form since his ODI debut in March 2022, averaging 40.28 with the bat for the country he moved to in 2017.

He had to wait five years for his international bow but firing his side to a first ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup appearance since 2015 will make it all worth the wait.

“My journey has been very hard,” he reflected. “I played first-class cricket in Pakistan, played for Pakistan under-19s against Australia under-19s and then moved to the UAE to start playing cricket and give coaching to kids.

“It’s not easy for me. I performed in domestic cricket in the UAE and had to wait for the UAE national team.

“I kept trying, kept performing and then finally my dreams came true and my efforts and performance give me the chance to played for the UAE. 

“This is the best moment for me to represent the UAE and we are looking forward to showing what we can do.”

How they qualified 

After finishing in the bottom four of the 2019-2023 ICC Cricket World Cup League 2, the United Arab Emirates found themselves as one of six teams in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off. 

Four wins from five matches were enough to clinch second spot in the table and one of the two places in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier. 

World Cup record 

The UAE will be hoping to qualify for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup for the third time in their history, having previously appeared in the tournament in 1996 and 2015. 

On debut, the UAE beat the Netherlands in their final group game, while eight years ago, they were narrowly beaten in their first two group matches against Zimbabwe and Ireland, before losing the remaining four. 

One to watch 

While Asif Khan will play a key role with the bat, UAE will hope Karthik Meiyappan continues his strong World Cup record with the ball.

The leg-spinner, who bowled pace growing up, took a hat-trick against Sri Lanka at last year’s ICC Men’s T20 World Cup and impressed at the Qualifier Play-Off.

When are they playing? 

The UAE will kick off their Group B campaign against Sri Lanka on June 19 at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo before taking on Oman two days later. 

After that, they have Scotland (June 23) and Ireland (June 27) to complete the group stages. 

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