UAE earned qualification to the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup for the first time without the aid of host status in some style back in April last year.
They secured progress to a second U19 World Cup, and first since hosting back in 2014, courtesy of a perfect Division 1 campaign in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Their five wins out of five saw them pip Nepal by two points at the top of the table, and included further victories over Singapore, Oman, Malaysia and Kuwait.
It was just reward for a junior side that has made remarkable strides in recent years.
Under the stewardship of head coach Dominic Tello – the South African former first-class cricketer that also assists Dougie Brown in the senior setup – the U19s have flourished.
And their trip to South Africa is well earned, a high point for cricket in a country where these youngsters have quickly helped rejuvenate a community piecing itself back together after the spate of anti-corruption suspensions and fleeing members of the senior side last year.
At the heart of this has been the inclusion of teenagers Vritya Aravind (17), Jonathan Figy (18) and Karthik Meiyappan (19) in squads for the UAE men’s recent ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 series.
All three have been superb, breathing new life into a national team that desperately needed it and under the guise of captain Ahmed Raza – who has accompanied the squad in South Africa – they have one of the best minds in Associate cricket to aid their development.
Those forays into the senior side will have done that trio the world of good ahead of this World Cup campaign, providing them a taste of highly competitive international cricket ahead of an ICC tournament against the best in the world at their age group.
Not only that, it proves there is a pathway for these youngsters to follow into the senior team.
It provides both incentive and inspiration for these players, who showed just how much of a close knit team they were in lending their encouragement to Aravind, Figy and Meiyappan as an entire squad from the sidelines of UAE’s victory over Scotland at the end of last year.
The biggest cheerleader that day was captain Aryan Lakra, the enormously talented all-rounder that was a notable absentee through injury during the U19s last assignment.
That was their disappointing U19 Asia Cup campaign in September, where UAE lost all three of their group matches against their Nepali, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan counterparts.
A lot has changed since then and with their captain back, plus the experiences of their three full internationals, you would not be surprised if UAE sprung a surprise or two along the way once proceedings get underway with their Group D opener against Canada in Bloemfontein.
Player to watch: Jonathan Figy
There has been serious noise around Figy among UAE cricketing circles for some time, the 18-year-old scoring schoolboy runs by the bucket load for some time.
He first emerged on the local scene as a 14-year-old in the National Schools League, scoring the first hundred in the league’s history.
Since then, he has moved to the U.K. where he broke run-scoring records for Winchester College by plundering 2,334 runs across two seasons.
He has continued his cricket at Leeds University and has already seen UAE’s seniors to victory with his composed 32 not out getting Raza’s side over the line against Namibia in just his second ODI earlier this month.
An elegant left-hander at the top of the order, Figy looks like he has all the time in the world at the crease and all the components to become a very fine player.
Player to watch: Karthik Meiyappan
Of the three U19 players to breakout under Brown, Meiyappan is possibly the most exciting.
A leg-spinner with unerring accuracy, enormous confidence and the ability to use flight and spin to his advantage, Meiyappan is a real talent.
He has already impressed Raza enormously, not only with his skills with ball in hand but also his understanding of the game.
Described as a real thinker, who speaks when it matters and is always looking to develop his craft, Meiyappan has a seriously bright future ahead of him.
His 4-37 against Namibia in Oman and game changing 2-39 in the win over Scotland showed just that.
UAE squad: Aryan Lakra (c), Vriitya Aravind, Osama Hassan, Alishan Sharafu, Wasi Shah, Akasha Tahir, Karthik Meiyappan, Sanchit Sharma, Ansh Tandon, Mohammad Faraazuddin, Jonathon Figy, Ali Naseer, Kai Smith, Chathiyan Dashan and Rishab Mukherjee
UAE Fixtures: Canada (18/01, Bloemfontein), Afghanistan (22/01, Potchefstroom), South Africa (25/01, Bloemfontein)