Standing near the fence, watching his team play a practice match against the Mumbai Indians at the ICC academy, UAE coach, Aaqib Javed, trained the gaze on his seamers.
The match is part of their preparations for the Asian Cricket Council tournament later this month in Malaysia.
Aaqib, however, is looking beyond this outing. The 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is where his thoughts meander to.
"I make them play against top-class players so that going forward they get confidence, hone a few skill sets and remind themselves how good they are actually," Aaqib told HT.
UAE qualified for the 2015 World Cup and have participated in the U19 World Cup and ICC WT20 in Bangladesh. UAE's journey is a fascinating story of self-belief, and the man responsible for instilling it is the coach.
"When I arrived here, my first impression was disappointing --- out-of-shape players, amateurs with part-time jobs."
Before anything else, Aaqib ran a weight-loss programme. "The skill set was there because they were mostly from the sub-continent, it was fitness that was my priority. I ran 15 laps, the boys gave up after three laps. The excuse was they weren't professionals, I decided to reverse the thinking."
Within three months, one player had lost 10kg and another 25kg. The excuses stopped. "When you work hard, you set high benchmarks," said Aaqib.
Then, it was time to hone skills. Aaqib hired a professional trainer, video analyst and used the world-class facilities at the ICC academy. The performance improved, and suddenly Aaqib had transformed the bowling attack of one seamer and four spinners to four seamers and one spinner. Everyone was willing to run hard. UAE's moment of reckoning came in January when they qualified for the 2015 World Cup after a gap of 18 years.
The task is half done. "The real test starts now. Things will be tougher from here," he said.
Post UAE's World Cup qualification, Aaqib has been flooded with offers but his 'vision 2015' overrides the offers. "It's a commitment to myself, I want to give it a shot regardless of the offers, I cannot back out now," he said.
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