Playing only their second World Cup, the UAE performed way better than they did in 1996. There was a sense of determination about their batting, the final game against West Indies was an example, when they could have folded rather cheaply at 21 for 5, but batted on to set a small but challenging total. For a team, whose players juggle between day jobs and commitment to cricket, UAE was a promising bunch.
They could have ended with at least two wins, but endured defeats in all the league matches of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. UAE began the tournament well but were left hot and cold. After beginning the tournament well, the game against India is what started the downward spiral. Yet, they held their heads high and fought till the very end.
Record in World Cup: Played 6, Won 0, Lost 6
UAE's first two matches - against Ireland and Zimbabwe were encouraging signs. Twice they batted well against relatively stronger sides, posting 275 and 285 respectively and came perilously close of causing an upset. In both these matches, their batsmen provided the side with a late surge towards the end of the innings, which took them to their two highest World Cup totals.
Moreover, in a tournament where top allrounders failed to leave that big an impact, Amjad Javed's performance was one of the major highlights of their campaign. He picked up seven wickets and scored 170 runs at an average of 34. His 42 against Ireland and a maiden half-century score of 56 against West Indies represented UAE's fighting character.
After the promise displayed in the first two games, it all came crashing down for UAE in the game against India. On a nippy Perth surface, they were bowled out for 102 in 31.1 overs, Ravichandran Ashwin picking up a career-best 4 for 25. The heavy loss seemed to have left a scar from which they never really recovered as they lost all their remaining matches by a heavy margin since.
As head coach Aaqib Javed had pointed out prior to the World Cup, UAE's fielding remains a major concerns. They were butter-fingered throughout the tournament and a few of their dropped catches, such as the two chances of Pakistan's Ahmed Shehzad changed the entire complexion of the game.
Most Valuable Performer
At one stage, it wasn't AB de Villiers leading the run-chart, nor was it Shikhar Dhawan and Kumar Sangakkara. It was Shaiman Anwar, who became the first Associate player to score a century this World Cup - 106 against Ireland. In addition to that sublime hundred, he notched up half-centuries against Zimbabwe and Pakistan and finished the tournament with 311 runs in six games.
His stats, at the conclusion of the league stage, read 300 runs at 51.83. For a batsman to thrive in international cricket, he needs to have a sound technique and possess a good head on his shoulders, both of which were well fulfilled by Anwar.
A lot was expected of Rohan Mustafa, the young offspinning allrounder, but his dismal World Cup performance - eight runs in four matches, prevented UAE from coming up with that one significant contribution in the middle order. His contribution with the ball, three wickets in four matches, was also not worth garnering any significant attention.
No one expected UAE to spring any surprises, much less last the distance. But the fact that they came close to causing an upset twice must have given the ICC reasons to ponder over their decision of going ahead with lesser teams in the next World Cup. They performed well within their limitations, but their struggle against top teams highlights the lack of exposure in terms of playing international cricket. The the ICC needs to provide them more with opportunities to help UAE continue their rapid growth.