This is the second World Cup for the United Arab Emirates. In their one previous appearance, they prevailed over the Netherlands in a puzzling game where the losing side had specialist batsmen at eight and ten. Since regaining ODI status, the UAE has posted a second victory in the format, eighteen years after their first, over the mighty Hong Kong. Aside from these results, they have never been any more competitive against a Full Member than they were in their inaugural ODI - a 71-run defeat against a merciful Indian side. They have never won an ODI against any team in this World Cup.
However, that's not to say that they cannot be competitive. Most of their players have played first-class cricket somewhere in the world (with Pakistan and Sri Lanka being well-represented), the UAE made it into the competition on merit, by beating most lower-ranked sides, and in the recent WCL Championship, Afghanistan and Scotland were both humbled 2-0 against them.
What's their best eleven?
Who really knows? The UAE have a few clear stand-out players, but those players who fit in around them seem to be transient at best. In such a metropolitan society, there are countless former first-class players to choose from as well as a decently talented crop of under-19 graduates. Any Emirati eleven has to be built around the veteran Khurram Khan. Despite now being into his 44th year, the skipper is still arguably his country's best batsman, best spinner, best leader and one of their best fielders. If I was to pick a team around him, I would consider:
Amjad Ali, Shaiman Anwar, Saqib Ali, Khurram Khan, Swapnil Patel, Rohan Mustafa, Vikrant Shetty, Amjad Javed, Mohammad Shahzad, Shadeep Silva, Manjula Guruge
Who's their star player?
As I touched on earlier, you can look no further than Khurram Khan. The 43-year-old has essentially been Emirati cricket for the last few years. In List A cricket, he has a batting average of exactly 42 (at a strike rate of 86) an a bowling average of 23.83 (at an economy of 4.45). Even against weak opposition, those are impressive stats, and stats that have only improved with age.
Who do they have to pick?
A rarity in the UAE team in that he is on the right side of thirty, Indian-born 'keeper-batsman Swapnil Patel assembled a compelling unbeaten 99 on his ODI debut against Scotland. While so much of the attention has been on Shaiman Anwar at the top of the order, Swapnil has proved himself to be consistent and versatile, in spite of his position in the batting order, whichever format he's playing, whether or not he has the gloves, and where abouts in the world he's playing. A big effort from him could mean respectability for the UAE.
The latest addition to the team is former Sri Lanka under-19 Andri Berenger. In a short and unsuccessful domestic career, he made no impact for any of three domestic teams in the Premier League Tournament. Despite his unimpressive stats, I expect the selectors to back his natural talent and select him as a batsman and back-up 'keeper behind Patil.
What are their prospects?
Given that they share a group with India, Ireland, Pakistan, South Africa, West Indies and Zimbabwe - none of whom they've beaten in ODIs - it would be reasonable to say that their chances aren't good. Coupled with the fact that they don't have anyone quicker than medium-pace, and their spinners will be stymied on flat tracks, and it looks like the batsmen might have to chase 350 to win a game.