x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Benefit match to be held for former UAE cricketer paralysed in crash

Amith Passela speaks to Mohammed Ishaq, who is wheelchair-bound since a car accident three years ago, ahead of a tribute match at the Zayed Cricket Stadium this week.

A benefit match will be played on Thursday to honour Mohammed Ishaq, the former UAE international.
A benefit match will be played on Thursday to honour Mohammed Ishaq, the former UAE international.

Two decades ago, Mohammed Ishaq was one of the most prolific batsmen in the UAE. He would go on to represent the country at the World Cup.

Ishaq now uses a wheelchair to get around, a requirement since July 2009, when a car crash left him paralysed below the waist.

As the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council (ADCC) prepares to play a benefit match in his honour on Thursday at Zayed Cricket Stadium, Ishaq recalled the incident that transformed his life.

He had been returning after performing Umra, an Islamic pilgrimage to the Kaaba in Mecca, with his family and brother-in-law.

"I was in the front seat. I was feeling a bit uncomfortable and removed the seat belt," he said.

"We were travelling at around 130 kilometres per hour when suddenly the two front tyres burst. In the spur of that moment I told my brother-in-law not to apply the brake and instead turn the car towards the sandy area off the road.

"That's all I could remember. When I regained consciousness I was under the car and couldn't feel anything below my waist."

He believes he was fortunate not to be wearing the seat belt, because the passenger side of the car was crushed.

He was treated at the King Fahad Hospital in Hofuf and later transferred to the New Medical Centre Hospital.

"It was the most difficult time in my life," Ishaq said. "All those whom I knew in cricket didn't know of my plight as they were not aware of the incident.

"I felt very lonely at that time and I had a thousand and one issues on my head, particularly the education of my five children. It was very disturbing and the two months in the hospital was like 20 years for me."

Ishaq is grateful to his employer, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, for whom he has worked as a money-market officer since October 1988. The bank has kept him on staff and given him flexible hours.

Ishaq's eldest daughter Fatima, 20, gave up her education to look after her father while Sumayya, the second daughter, and three sons, Abdullah, 19; Nasrullah, 18; and Abdul Rahman, 11, are still in school.

Ishaq played for Pakistan's Under 19s and then the Under 23 side, and later missed out on a selection for a tour of Australia with the national side in 1983/84.

He proved a success from the time he arrived in Abu Dhabi, in December 1987. He played for various clubs before joining NBAD, one of the leading Division 1 teams at that time.

The high point of his career in the UAE was playing in the 1996 World Cup jointly hosted by India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, scoring 51 off 37 deliveries to defeat Kenya in the ACC Championship final, the qualifier for the World Cup.

"I was down to bat at No 5 but the captain, Sultan Zarawani, promoted me to go at four as we required more than seven per over against Kenya," Ishaq said.

"There were more than 25,000 home fans and that probably was an innings I would cherish."

Inam ul Haq, the honorary general secretary of the ADCC, said the idea behind Thursday's game was a gesture of goodwill and support to a fellow sportsman who has contributed immensely to the game of cricket in the country.

"We request the kind support of cricket clubs, fans and well-wishers to contribute generously by participating in this match and enable ADCC fulfil this noble cause," he said.

The funds raised will be utilised for an operation Ishaq will undergo in Germany at a cost of €55,000 (Dh260,700).

apassela@thenational.ae

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