Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 3 August 2020

Fahad Nawaz grabs his chance to shine at the Emirates D10

After tough start to UAE career, Dubai Pulse batsman admits he is hoping to play his way back into national team contention

Given the influx of new young blood to the UAE national team in the past 12 months, Fahad Nawaz might have started to feel as though he was over the hill.

The right-handed batsman only turned 20 in January, but by that time it had been a year since he had last played his second and – so far – last match for the senior national team.

After the corruption scandal that engulfed UAE cricket at the

end of 2019 accounted for up to six senior players, the national team did something that was very unusual in cricket in this country: they put their trust in youth.

That meant call ups for one schoolboy, and three university students. Three of them had been members of the country’s Under 19 side that was bound for the World Cup, and were very highly regarded.

And each of Vriitya Aravind, Jonathan Figy and Karthik Meiyappan thrived when they were given their chance in men’s cricket.

Nawaz had been that guy not so long ago. Back in the days when UAE’s selectors were not remotely as keen on throwing in youngsters, he had been a teenage debutant in one-day international matches against Nepal at the start of 2019.

Unlike the teenagers who have followed since, he struggled – perhaps not surprisingly, given the pedigree of bowler he was up against right as he was starting out.

In his first match, he was outfoxed by the skill of Nepal’s IPL star Sandeep Lamichhane, as he was bowled for two. The very next day, he was undone by the same bowler off the first ball he faced.

He lost his place, and has not played in the grey of the senior team since.

If Nawaz is looking for a fresh start and a chance to catch the selectors’ attention again, then the Emirates D10 might have come at just the right time.

The competition feels like one big talent hunt – albeit in a format the national team do not actually play in.

Nawaz has grabbed his chance. After five matches in the competition, he was second in the run-scoring charts – behind the remarkable Aravind – with 172 runs at an average of 57.33 and a strike-rate of 193.

His 38 not out as Dubai Pulse chased down 88 to win Wednesday’s first match included some dexterous handling of Graeme Cremer, the former Zimbabwe captain who has over 200 wickets to his name in international cricket.

“This tournament is very important for me because I did a lot of hard work with my coaches to improve my game,” Nawaz said.

“This is a great opportunity, and a platform to show my skills and talent to all.

“After so long, cricket is finally back and we are all very excited to show our game.”

Nawaz acknowledged he is driven by the idea of playing for the UAE again one day.

“It would be a very proud moment for me to represent my country again,” he said.

“Although I don’t hold a local passport, I was born here, and enjoy playing cricket here more than anywhere else.

“I’ve worked very hard to get back in the squad since last time, and hope to be back soon.”

While Nawaz has been recasting himself as a young player of substance, Aravind has been doing his best to steal all of the limelight.

The 18-year-old wicketkeeper had been on course for the tournament’s first century, before he fell in the seventh over of the ECB Blues match against Team Abu Dhabi at the ICC Academy. He ended with 89 from 29 balls.

Updated: July 30, 2020 03:38 PM

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