Cricket: UAE Captain Khurram eyes their success against Ireland

UAE captain Khurram Khan (right) and team mate Syed Maqsood Ahmed celebrate the wicket of Sri Lankan batsman Thilina Kandamby (unseen) during the Asia Cup 2004 one-day international cricket match against Sri Lanka in Dambulla in this July 17, 2004 fi
UAE captain Khurram Khan (right) and team mate Syed Maqsood Ahmed celebrate the wicket of Sri Lankan batsman Thilina Kandamby (unseen) during the Asia Cup 2004 one-day international cricket match against Sri Lanka in Dambulla in this July 17, 2004 file photo. With a team of part-timers, the United Arab Emirates are realistic about their prospects at the cricket World Cup. As the last team to qualify for the tournament, they are the rank outsiders, facing a stiff challenge of winning a single match let alone the title. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BRISBANE (AFP) - The United Arab Emirates (UAE) believe their Pool B match against Ireland in Brisbane on Wednesday offers them a "wonderful opportunity" of a World Cup win, according to batsman Khurram Khan.

Both associate or non-Test nations know each other well, having played each other repeatedly in various lower-level International Cricket Council competitions.

The UAE, the only amateur side in the tournament, impressed before going down by four wickets to Zimbabwe first time out while Ireland beat the West Indies by the same margin - a result no longer classed as an 'upset'.

Both teams will fancy their chances at Brisbane's Gabba ground and Khurram said on Tuesday: "I think it's going to be a very important game, obviously.

"They'll be targeting us. We've played lots of games against them," added Khurram, who made 45 against Zimbabwe.

"I think it's a wonderful opportunity because it's a very important game for us as well. So we're definitely targeting this game." Asked where the team needed to improve most on their performance against Zimbabwe, Khurram was clear.

"Definitely I would say in the fielding. We missed three run-out chances." Meanwhile Khurram insisted the UAE were an amateur side in name only, saying: As we're here, we'll enjoy our time and be as professional as we can.

"Obviously we have jobs back home, but once you're here you completely forget about the jobs and what's behind the scenes. We're here to win as many games as we can." The UAE are also unusual in having two 43-year-olds in their squad in Khurram and captain Mohammad Tauqir.

Not that either man was in a mood for a birthday party.

"We stopped celebrating after 40, actually," Khurram joked.

The way in which the four associate teams - Afghanistan, Ireland, Scotland and the UAE - have all performed so far at this World Cup has led to widespread criticism of the ICC's plan to reduce the number of teams at the 2019 edition in England from 14 to 10.

Khurram added the associates needed more matches against higher-ranked sides between World Cups, saying it was the only way to ensure they made sustained progress.

"I'd like to see us play many more matches against Test-playing nations," he said. "You cannot just expect us to come to a World Cup and do well without playing any other games against them before the World Cup."

"It's a slow process. Obviously it's going to take time. But you've seen some of the (associates' World Cup) games. They've been crucial and close games, and we're looking forward to having some good games." Ireland captain William Porterfield was scathing about the planned reduction in the number of World Cup teams.

"I think it's frustrating whenever you come to tournaments and the governing body wants to keep cutting teams," he said. "I think it's the only sport in the world that does that when it comes to world events.

"You have your Champions Trophy every couple years and that's with the top eight teams. And it wouldn't be a World Cup if you just keep reducing teams and having only the top few teams that are ranked," Porterfield added.

"It is a global event, and it's a sport we want to grow and you're only going to grow that if you have more teams participating around the world."