We felt like we gained a lot from the IPL, says UAE captain Ahmed Raza

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Three players named in the squad for Ireland series had trained with RCB and Mumbai

Ahmed Raza, UAE’s captain, is not concerned about his side’s fitness or preparation ahead of their four-match ODI series against Ireland, following a 10-month break from international cricket.

UAE’s last game took place in February 2020, a 102-run win against Kuwait in the final of the ACC Western Region T20 competition, but players returned to training in June and have been playing domestic cricket over the past few months.

Three players named in the squad for the series were also beneficiaries of the IPL’s change in venue for the postponed 2020 season. Raza and young wristspinner Karthik Meiyappan trained with Royal Challengers Bangalore, while seamer Zahoor Khan spent time with the Mumbai Indians squad.

“We were one of the first associate teams to hit the ground running,” Raza said at a virtual press conference. “Having some cricket in the last few months has helped us. We haven’t played any international cricket for a long period, but [the pandemic] is something which is new to all of us. We’re really happy to be together as a squad and are just looking forward to playing some international cricket.

“[The IPL] was massive. The experience you get over there training with the likes of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, and bowling to them [is great]. We felt like we’d gained a lot when we left the IPL. It’s hard to put into words, but you start feeling different, and you’re different in your approach as well. I hope that whatever we learned in that period, we can showcase in our performances in this series.”

UAE go into the series, which sees four games in Abu Dhabi squeezed into a seven-day window from January 8-14, as underdogs: they are six places below Ireland in the ICC’s ODI rankings, and have lost all six of their previous encounters against Ireland in the format.

They are also a team in transition. Robin Singh replaced Dougie Brown as director of cricket last year, and has managed to spend time with the group despite being stuck in India for several months due to a lockdown and working as Mumbai Indians’ batting coach during the IPL.

Their squad is also still coming to terms with the suspensions of five players over the past 18 months due to corruption charges. As a result, the 17-man squad named on Wednesday has a youthful look to it, with Aryan Lakra, Alishan Sharafu, Kashif Daud and Adithya Shetty all winning their maiden call-ups. Chirag Suri and Khan are both fit after injury concerns.

“You want to win every game you play, and this series is no different,” Raza said. “We want to win all the games and win the series. We’re playing in our own backyard and looking at the squad, there’s a good mix of youth and experience. We have to keep an eye on the 2023 World Cup down the line. Looking at the four or five youngsters in the squad, they all playing in the Under-19 World Cup and put in performances.”

UAE squad to play Ireland: Ahmed Raza (captain), Chirag Suri, Rohan Mustafa, Muhammad Usman, Muhammad Boota, Zahoor Khan, Junaid Siddique, Waheed Ahmad, Zawar Farid, CP Rizwaan, Aryan Lakra, Karthik Meiyappan, Alishan Sharafu, Basil Hameed, Kashif Daud, Adithya Shetty, Vriitya Aravind

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98

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