Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 June 2019

Retired UAE cricketer Adnan Mufti fighting the good fight to secure dream future in England

Batsman's plan to continue playing and coaching full-time hit legal snag since family's relocation to UK last year

Former UAE cricketer Adnan Mufti at Clevedon's cricket ground, where he hopes to one day play and coach professionally. Mark Thomas for The National
Former UAE cricketer Adnan Mufti at Clevedon's cricket ground, where he hopes to one day play and coach professionally. Mark Thomas for The National

Within a year of playing in a Cricket World Cup qualifier against West Indies and being complimented on his batting by Chris Gayle, Adnan Mufti was working in Domino’s pizza in the UK, having been barred from playing any form of cricket.

He is now waiting on a High Court ruling to find out whether he will be able to resume a sport he terms “my first love and my last love”.

Last October, the 34-year-old batsman resigned from his Emirates Cricket Board central contract and retired from playing for the UAE.

His wife had secured a job in a hospital in England, and Mufti made a decision to forego his international career and relocate with her and their infant daughter for the sake of their future prospects.

He wanted to build a life for his family by playing and coaching in the UK, and jumped at an invitation to join Clevedon, a champion premier division club in the west of England.

However, his ambitions were aborted when he discovered that Home Office immigration rules deemed he was “not be eligible to play sport, paid or unpaid”.

Mufti has appealed the decision in court, and remains hopeful he can make good on both his promise to both himself, and the club who have stuck by him.

“I am an international player, I should be playing good cricket,” Mufti said, while enviously watching on as Clevedon played a fixture at their beautiful home ground overlooking the Bristol Channel.

“I have three or four years left in me. If they allow me to do coaching, that would be good for me and my future as well.

“I have played cricket my whole life. It is my first love and my last love. What else can I do, other than cricket?”

Adnan Mufti played 18 official one-day internationals for the UAE before announcing his retirement last year. Pawan Singh / The National
Adnan Mufti played 18 official one-day internationals for the UAE before announcing his retirement last year. Pawan Singh / The National

Mufti was aware that playing as an overseas professional in the UK, having arrived on a spouse visa, would require a lengthy administrative process.

On the advice of his lawyer, he wrote multiple times to the Home Office, to seek clearance to play recreational cricket.

“I kept writing to them every 30 days, then it reached a point where the season was approaching and I was afraid I would not be able to play any early season games,” Mufti said.

“We decided to go through the court and submitted our reply. The Home Office replied to the court that, according to our guidelines, it is in not possible for him to play, because he is an international player.”

According to the England and Wales Cricket Board’s website: “The UK’s immigration arrangements for professional sportspersons seek to strike a balance between ensuring UK sports can access top end talent that will enhance sport in the UK, whilst at the same time protecting opportunities for resident players and supporting the grassroots sport.”

It appears as though Mufti’s international career with the UAE, as well as his previous professional career back in Pakistan, has counted against him.

Immigration rules relating to overseas players in cricket on the Home Office website suggest Mufti fits into a category that is between amateur and professional, and does not qualify him for a sporting visa. As such, he is not permitted to play any form of cricket.

Former UAE cricketer Adnan Mufti with some of the Clevedon team members. Mark Thomas for The National
Former UAE cricketer Adnan Mufti with some of the Clevedon team members. Mark Thomas for The National

Instead, he has had to find work, around looking after two-year-old daughter Houriar. For two months, that meant taking orders at a pizza outlet, a job he has since left.

“I worked at Domino’s as counter staff for two months, because I didn’t have any other choice,” Mufti said.

“My wife is working from 9am-5pm, I am going to Domino’s to work from 6pm-10pm on the counter. There is nothing much else I can do.”

Mufti remains committed to playing and coaching for Clevedon, pending the outcome of his case, and does not miss a training session.

“It was a blow, as we had got several offers from overseas players, but because we’d shaken hands with Adnan, we kept hoping for the best,” Clevedon coach Piers McBride said.

“We’re reliant on whatever the outcome is. In my mind, this is not a guy taking a young kid’s job. It is not a guy taking somebody’s livelihood.

“I’ve only offered him a position because of his cricket pedigree. I wanted to get him involved with helping me with the coaching, and I felt he could really help our junior section.

“You have to be able to earn a living, and I feel for the guy. I’m sure he would happily play for nothing. He just wants to play cricket.”

Former UAE cricketer Adnan Mufti with Clevedon coach Piers McBride at Clevedon's gricket ground. Mark Thomas for The National
Former UAE cricketer Adnan Mufti with Clevedon coach Piers McBride at Clevedon's gricket ground. Mark Thomas for The National

McBride is confident Mufti will have a positive influence on his title-winning club.

“If he is in the team, we will get more people coming to watch,” McBride said.

“He would be great with the youngsters. People would listen to him because he has played international cricket, and scored international hundreds.

“It can only help the club. I think he would be a great coach, and cricket is really missing out on someone who could put a lot back in.”

In March 2018, Mufti had been a vital cog in the UAE side that played at the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe.

In that tournament, he played a fine cameo in a run-chase against the West Indies. His dextrous stroke-play brought praise from Gayle, who had earlier made a hundred in the same match.

Memories like that mean Mufti has suffered feelings of regret since leaving the national team, especially given the problems he has faced since.

“In the first three months, every day I thought about going back,” Mufti said.

“But I took this decision for my family. We are thinking of our future, not going backwards. If we went back, we would be in the same position as well.

“If, after two or three years, I finished playing, I would have nothing to do. There are no coaching prospects, and I want my career to be in coaching.

“I want to improve my skills in the UK. The UK is a land of opportunity. They have been very strict about this, but I am an international player. I can contribute a lot.”

Updated: June 12, 2019 01:48 PM

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