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Imran Zia Masood was a top-level wicketkeeper in Pakistan before he came to UAE nearly 18 years ago. Delores Johnson / The National
Imran Zia Masood was a top-level wicketkeeper in Pakistan before he came to UAE nearly 18 years ago. Delores Johnson / The National

Pakistan wicketkeeper keeps penchant for runs going at UAE's domestic cricket level

Imran Zia Masood could not emerge out of the shadows of internationals, Rashid Latif and Moin Khan, but he has been shining on Abu Dhabi grounds for nearly two decades.

In 1994, Imran Zia Masood had to make a decision - continue pursuing his cricket career in Pakistan or choose an alternate route.

Imran spent most of his career in the shadows of Pakistan wicketkeepers Rashid Latif and Moin Khan. With his path to the national team blocked by the pair, Imran decided to make a change.

Imran was among the top three wicketkeepers in the country at the time.

But and with Latif and Moin already established, playing for a smaller state, Bahawalpur in Punjab, did not help Imran's cause.

"I loved my cricket and enjoyed playing in Pakistan, but I was not getting any younger. I had to find a way to improve my life with a decent job and decent income," Imran said.

His brother-in-law suggested that he visit Abu Dhabi. Imran played a few friendly matches and impressed so much, he was offered a job at Adnoc Distribution, who were starting a team.

"I came on a visit to Abu Dhabi in 1994 and returned on June 1995 to take up my new appointment. Looking back, I feel I made the right decision," Imran said.

Imran, 45, has been Adnoc Distribution's most prolific scorer in both the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council (ADCC) and the Inter-Oil companies tournaments every year.

He has scored at an average of 800 to 900 runs every season, and says the sheer amount of cricket he played in Pakistan from school level to first class is what has helped him reach this standard.

During his peak, Imran played against Pakistan greats Inzamam ul Haq, Waqar Younus, Ramiz Raza and Aaqib Javed, the UAE national team coach, to name a few.

He also held a record 10 catches in a first-class match against Faisalabad in the Qaid-e-Azam tournament.

"I still enjoy playing, so I keep myself fit with a daily workout and playing matches during the weekends," he said.

Imran played a couple of matches for an ADCC XI against Ireland and Scotland, but was not considered for selection for the UAE, although he had the potential.

"There are two reasons for this," he explained. "My team was playing in Division 2, and also, it was hard to get time off to attend trials and training with the national team.

"It is a well-known fact that those with day jobs find it very hard to get time off for cricket.

"This is a problem the administration has to find the solutions for if they want to establish a strong squad."

Imran is a Level-1 coach and has been involved in coaching youngsters at the MCC-Zayed Cricket Academy for the last seven years.

He comes from a sporting family. His father - Zia ul Masood was a Pakistan hockey international and Imram Zia's two sons, Umer and Ammad, have both taken up cricket.

"I played hockey and football at school level," he said, "but cricket was the game I loved to play and wanted to pursue."

apassela@thenational.ae

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