Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 27 September 2020

IPL

IPL 2020: UAE captain Ahmed Raza drafted into Royal Challengers Bangalore training camp

National team skipper discusses the 'surreal' experience of joining the star-studded franchise and how he wants to take what he learns back to the UAE setup

Ahmed Raza will be joined by UAE teammate Karthik Meiyappan as part of RCB's training camp during the IPL. Pawan Singh / The National
Ahmed Raza will be joined by UAE teammate Karthik Meiyappan as part of RCB's training camp during the IPL. Pawan Singh / The National

Royal Challengers Bangalore will benefit from a wealth of local knowledge at the IPL after drafting in the UAE captain Ahmed Raza to train with them for the duration of the competition.

The left-arm spinner completed seven days of quarantine in his room at the team hotel earlier this week. He has begun training with the squad, which includes the likes of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.

Karthik Meiyappan, the 19-year-old UAE leg-spinner, has also been drafted in to train with the side.

Two weeks ago, RCB’s head of scouting contacted Raza to say Sridharan Sriram, the former India spinner who is now part of the RCB coaching staff, had recommended him.

Sriram had also enlisted Raza’s assistance with Australia, for whom he is a spin bowling consultant, both when they toured the UAE, as well as the UK last summer.

Raza says he is grateful for the faith shown in him, as well as the friendly introduction to the playing squad.

“I was introduced to the players and support staff, and it was really nice for Sri [Sriram] to put in that word for me,” Raza, 31, said.

“He introduced me as the UAE captain. And can you imagine AB walking up to you and saying: ‘Thank you for helping us out.’ Seriously, it was surreal.”

The two UAE players – who will coincidentally both celebrate their birthdays while in the RCB bio-secure bubble during the tournament – needed two negative PCR tests before moving into the team hotel.

They then had to return three more negative Covid tests during their week-long isolation in their rooms.

“The lockdown period that we had in March helped me to stay sane in those seven days as well,” Raza said.

“I was doing the routine that I used to do in my house back then, including room workouts with bodyweight, that sort of stuff.

“I focused on the fact it was just a matter of time before I got out.

"It does feel slightly strange being in this bio-secure bubble, but credit to the IPL and RCB.

“This hotel is great, they have a fantastic team room, and when we have a private area of beach access as well.

“And then it was great to be involved in my first training session at the ICC Academy as well, as it felt like going back home.”

Raza was born and raised in Sharjah, and has been part of the senior national team for 14 years.

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Royal Challengers Bangalore XI

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He trains daily in Dubai Sports City as part of his day job with the UAE team. As such, few people know more about the prevailing conditions at the grounds where the IPL will be played – Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

He says Mike Hesson, RCB’s director of cricket operations, has already asked for some inputs on the local conditions.

“He has come here before many times with New Zealand as the head coach,” Raza said. “He was picking up points about the dew factor, and which wickets might spin.”

The UAE duo are understood to be the first to be enlisted to help out from beyond the team bubbles.

Each of the eight franchises brought with them sizeable staffs for this exiled season of the IPL. Included in that are a vast number of junior players who will be exclusively employed as net bowlers throughout their stay in the UAE.

Raza expects the workload for him and Meiyappan to ramp up once the tournament gets underway, and the bowlers in the first-team squad minimise the amount of matches they do.

He is hopeful he can use what he learns from the experience for the benefit of UAE cricket once the national team return to action.

“I want to soak up everything while I’m here, every word the coach says, and seeing how the players go about their business,” Raza said. “I want to take away from this whatever I can and take it back to UAE cricket.

“When I finish this assignment and we come back and play our cricket, I can share all this information with our players.

“It is good to have Karthik here as well. He is just 19 and he has this amazing opportunity, so he can learn a lot, too.”

Updated: September 17, 2020 07:22 AM

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