D-Day as UAE face their destiny with Bangladesh in Asia Cup U19 final

Assistant Coach Raza says hosts have the belief but visitors must cope with playing on a big stage like the Dubai International Cricket Stadium

By Leslie Wilson Jr.

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Aayan Afzal Khan (R) and Mahfuzur Rahman Rabby with the Asia Cup U19 trophy at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. Photo: Asian Cricket Council
Aayan Afzal Khan (R) and Mahfuzur Rahman Rabby with the Asia Cup U19 trophy at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. Photo: Asian Cricket Council

Published: Sat 16 Dec 2023, 5:52 PM

Last updated: Sat 16 Dec 2023, 6:32 PM

Hosts UAE and Bangladesh face their destiny when they meet in the summit clash of the ACC Asia Cup U19 tournament on Sunday but in the end, only one of them will come away holding the trophy.

As it has does so many times over the years, the iconic Dubai International Cricket Stadium will play host to what promises to be an epic showdown as a revitalized UAE go in search of that record maiden title in all forms of the game.

Bangladesh go into the match with a clean slate having beaten the UAE by 61 runs, Japan by nine wickets, Sri Lanka by six wickets and India by four wickets.

UAE have posted three decisive wins over Sri Lanka (2 wickets), Japan (107 runs) and Pakistan (11 runs) with their only defeat coming against Bangladesh in their opening league match in Pool B.

On that occasion the home team failed to chase down a target of 229 when they were bowled out for 167 runs in 47.4 overs.

However, a lot has happened since that fateful loss almost two weeks ago. Led by the mercurial Aayan Afzal Khan, who has been an absolute standout with the bat to help his team complete a hat-trick of wins, the UAE have transformed themselves into a formidable foe that Bangladesh will not recognize from the team that they beat on December 9.

Ahmed Raza, the former UAE cricket captain and Assistant Coach of the team, thinks he has the answer to the UAE’s renaissance in the Asia Cup.

Rival captains Aayan Afzal Khan (R) and Mahfuzur Rahman Rabby shake hands at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. - Supplied photo.Asian Cricket Council
Rival captains Aayan Afzal Khan (R) and Mahfuzur Rahman Rabby shake hands at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. - Supplied photo.Asian Cricket Council

“Right from the very first camp, when we began preparing for this tournament, there was only one word going around the camp,” he told Khaleej Times.

“That word was belief. We started saying it right from the beginning and we go into Sunday’s big match believing we can win.”

Today’s cricketer is a different kettle of fish to the one who played the game as a hobby in the past. Today’s young cricket is driven by purpose and intent. And this remarkable mindset has led to a new breed of hungry, determined players as the Asia Cup has showcased.

Raza, who has stood alongside the UAE’s coach and former Pakistan allround Mudassar Nazar, nurturing and mentoring the team to reach for the stars was a happy man as he talked about the team’s chances of writing another chapter in UAE cricket history.

“The mood in the camp is really good and we are genuinely looking forward to this final and taking on Bangladesh,” said Raza.

“We played them in the league stage, so we know what their team is like and what kind of cricket they play. We just have to be disciplined.”

Raza believes that the UAE’s fielding has been one of the strongest in tournament and has played a big role in their winning performances.

“We have got some special fielders,” he said. “We effected three run outs in the game against Pakistan which were the turning point of the game

“So we just need to repeat that level of performance, not only with bat and ball, but in the field as well. There is one area where we have proven that we are better than the opposition we have face so far.

“So tomorrow it’s just about going there and being disciplined with bat and ball and in the field,” he added.

Raza is also of the opinion that his boys have the home advantage as the final will be played at the daunting Dubai International Cricket Stadium, which can exact a huge toll on a player’s self-confidence and self-esteem.

“We’re moving from the ICC Academy to this big stadium, which is a huge change," h” said. “I’m pretty sure the Bangladesh boys have not played as much cricket there as we have, so we definitely have the edge going there.

“But then again it’s a new day, it’s a new match. Let’s see what happens.”

In a build up to the final the rivals skippers, Aayan Afzal Khan and Mahfuzur Rahman Rabby (Bangladesh) led their teams to a training session at the nets and also posed for an official picture with the glittering.

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ACC Men’s U19 Asia Cup trophy which one of them will get their hands on, come Sunday evening.

Spectators will be allowed free entry to the match which will be broadcast live on Star sports & Hotstar - India region, GAZI TV – Bangladesh and the Asian Cricket Council’s YouTube channel.

At A glance

What: ACC Asia Cup u19 Final

Teams: UAE vs Bangladesh

When: Sunday, December 17

Venue: Dubai International Cricket Stadium

Projected playing XIs

Bangladesh: Ashiqur Rahman Shibli, Ahrar Amin, Rizwan Chowdhury, Md. Shihab James, Parvez Rahman Jibon, Maruf Mridha, Md Iqbal Hasan Emon, Md. Rohanat Doullah Borson, Mahfuzur Rahman, Ariful Islam and Jishan Alam.

UAE: Aryansh Sharma, Tanish Suri, Ethan D'souza, Akshat Rai, Aayan Khan, Ayman Ahamed, Omid Rehman, Ammar Badami, Dhruv Parashar, Hardik Pai and Maroof Merchant.


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