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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 September 2018

UAE-born brothers Hanzalah and Huzaifah Khan looking to take the next step up on English cricket ladder

Graduates of the Zayed Cricket Academy in Abu Dhabi, Hanzalah will attend a trial at MCC Universities and Huzaifah aims to secure a place with Warwickshire U19 squad

Huzaifah Khan, 17, left, and his brother Hanzalah, 19, spent their formative years in Abu Dhabi at the Zayed Cricket Academy but are now hoping to make their mark in their respective English education system sides and county age-group teams. Christopher Pike / The National
Huzaifah Khan, 17, left, and his brother Hanzalah, 19, spent their formative years in Abu Dhabi at the Zayed Cricket Academy but are now hoping to make their mark in their respective English education system sides and county age-group teams. Christopher Pike / The National

After completing their cricket scholarships at one of England's best schools, brothers Hanzalah and Huzaifah Khan are now readying themselves for a crack at trying to establish themselves on the next tier of English cricket.

Hanzalah, 19, has a trial for the MCC Universities team that consists of Oxford, Cambridge, Cardiff, Durham, Leeds/Bradford and Loughborough, the last of which he attends. His younger brother Huzaifah, 17, will attend a trial at Warwickshire Under 19.

Born to Indian parents Yasmeen and Ayub in Abu Dhabi, the two siblings have come a long way since their formative years at Zayed Cricket Academy.

They represented both the academy and Merryland International School before joining Ardingly College on cricket scholarships in 2014.

Hanzalah, a wicketkeeper-batsman, is now a second year pupil at Loughborough and Huzaifah, a left-handed top-order batsman who bowls both left arm seam and off-spin, continues his higher education at Rugby from September.

Huzaifah Khan, 17, along with older brother Hanzalah spend their summer breaks back in the UAE where they attend training sessions at the Zayed Cricket Academy. Christopher Pike / The National
Huzaifah Khan, 17, along with older brother Hanzalah spend their summer breaks back in the UAE where they attend training sessions at the Zayed Cricket Academy. Christopher Pike / The National

In his first year at Ardingly, Hanzalah’s season got off to a bright start. They won the Sussex Inter-School Twenty20 Cup where he finished as the second highest run-scorer with an average of 40.

“The first season at Ardingly went really well,” said Hanzalah, who suffered a fractured wrist in his second year that ruled him out for half of the following season.

“It was a blessing in disguise, though, as I got to spend more time for my Advanced level examination and got exactly what was required for a place at Loughborough, which was two A’s and a B.

“At Loughborough, I attended two trials. The first was for MCC Universities, which was the top tier, and the AU Universities first team who play in the second tier.”

Hanzalah didn’t make the MCCU 15-man squad but was included as a reserve, and was selected for the AU first team.

“The MCCU have called me for a trial again in October and with both last season’s wicketkeepers out of the side the chances look good,” he said.

“But I’m not taking it for granted with some of the best players from six universities set to attend. I just hope I can to do well in the trials to confirm my place.”

Hanzalah says his game continues to improve the more he gets to grip with English conditions.

“It’s about continuing the work and backing it by some good performances,” he said.

“If I’m successful in getting into the MCCU and perform well in the two seasons I’m in the university, then the coaches can recommend me for county second XI team.”

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Hanzalah averaged 39.5 in 17 games, including three centuries and two fifties, and in keeping wicket, had more than 35 dismissals in his first season at Loughborough as they finished runners-up behind Nottingham University in the Inter-Universities first league.

“Obviously I’m looking to improve my performance by training a lot during the winter and be ready for the new season,” he said.

Hanzalah says his ambitions are to secure a place in the MCCU and ultimately win a county contract. He says his grounding in the game in the UAE, playing around 30 games for both the academy and the school every season, helped him on his upwards trajectory.

“I wouldn’t have got this scholarship if not for the Zayed Academy,” he said. “The competition in Abu Dhabi was a lot more than the other emirates.”

Huzaifah Khan, 17, at the Zayed Cricket Academy's Nursery Oval in Abu Dhabi on August 25, 2017. A left-handed top-order batsman who bowls both left arm seam and off-spin, Huzaifah continues his higher education at Rugby, a school in England's Midlands, from September. Christopher Pike / The National
Huzaifah Khan, 17, at the Zayed Cricket Academy's Nursery Oval in Abu Dhabi on August 25, 2017. A left-handed top-order batsman who bowls both left arm seam and off-spin, Huzaifah continues his higher education at Rugby, a school in England's Midlands, from September. Christopher Pike / The National

The two siblings spend their school holidays in the UAE and revisit their old stomping ground at the Zayed Academy when time permits. Three years away from home and their parents has given the brothers the will and determination to take their sporting and academic careers to the next level, but also to mature.

“It really explored my growing up and maturation, and also taught me how to be independent, self-reliant, self-motivated and disciplined,” Huzaifah said.

“As in cricket, I have been to two county trials. I train four days of the week both indoors and outdoors.”

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Huzaifah scored 120 runs and grabbed 12 wickets in five games in the Blackshaw Bowl T20 Sussex U15 Schools tournament in 2016 before injury curtailed his 2017 season. Although he used his time on the sidelines wisely to assess his game.

“Definitely I want to come back stronger than before,” said Huzaifah, who scored eight A stars and two A’s in his IGCSE.

“The injury also helped me look at my game analytically and improve my mental game.”

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