Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

UAE cricketers top-up lockdown practice with Mohsin Arif's one-to-one indoor training sessions

Likes of Zahoor and Hameed take up chance of personalised tuition with freelance coach in Dubai industrial estate

It is tempting to suggest the corrugated iron sheds of Al Quoz industrial estate should be a strange place to find international cricketers plying their trade.

That would be forgetting that a World Cup involving the New Zealand IPL star Jesse Ryder – that of indoor cricket – happened inside one of these warehouses not so long ago.

And, just lately, a steady stream of UAE national team players have picked a path through the warren of labour accommodation and concrete plants to find a place to train.

Since Dubai Sports Council introduced measures at the end of May that allowed small groups of cricketers to return to practice, many of them have been cramming as much in as possible.

The likes of Zahoor Khan and Basil Hameed, each an integral part of the UAE team, have been topping up national team training they get at the ICC Academy with extra, personalised tuition in Al Quoz.

Ahdaaf Sports Centre is well known to many recreational footballers in Dubai, but in recent times one of its pitches has been converted to accommodate cricket training.

It is an unprepossessing space, but serves the needs of the players adequately.

And if it is good enough for Zahoor, who was one of just three players from outside the Test cricket world to be on the IPL auction list last year, then it should be good enough for everyone.

Zahoor has been heading here for one-to-one training with Mohsin Arif, a former minor counties cricketer from Cardiff who is a well-known coach in the UAE domestic game.

Mohsin has various players under his regular tutelage, ranging from the likes of Zahoor and Hameed to aspiring UAE age-group players.

Since lockdown ended, he has been based at Ahdaaf between 3pm and 9pm most days. No wonder he has broad shoulders.

“Nah, it doesn’t bother me at all,” Mohsin laughs when asked if six hours of throw-downs takes its toll. “Us Welshmen can take it.”

Mohsin is grateful for the workload, given how tough the months of lockdown were on freelance sports coaches like himself. He is happy to offset weeks of lost earnings by packing in as much training as possible.

Having a long-term block booking at Ahdaaf means he has been able to negotiate a friendly rate.

It might not have all the mod-cons of the ICC Academy up the road, but it is cost effective, and a handy top up for the players.

Especially given the national team coach, Robin Singh, has still not been able to make it back from India yet.

He went there after the national team’s last assignment – his first as coach – and travel restrictions caused by the pandemic have meant he has been unable to return so far.

Mohsin is happy to do what he can to help out, even if it is in an independent capacity.

“A lot of our training sessions I will video anyway, and have a mic on me,” Mohsin said.

“That way the players do not miss anything, and they can study the pointers when they watch it back.

“It means they don’t miss anything, as it is often loud in here, if the footballers are playing at the back, or there are batsmen in the other [net] lanes.

“It also means the players can send their videos to Robin. He can say, ‘I think this is good, now I want you to work on X, Y, or Z,’ and we can get to work on that next.”

While Singh’s travel plans might be up in the air, it is unknown when they will be able to get out playing competitive cricket, anyway, as the international cricket calendar is at impasse.

Decisions need to be made by the ICC, and there will be a trickle down that affects the cricketers of the UAE.

The decision as to whether or not the T20 World Cup is going to go ahead as planned in October, is the vital one.

It has already been deferred twice, with a final decision supposedly to take place in July.

That will set in train another set of scheduling decisions, such as when the IPL can be rescheduled for, and whether the Asia Cup – which UAE hope to be playing in – can go ahead at all.

Hameed said the players are not fretting about what the calendar is going to look like, but that they are happy to be back training regardless.

“Actually, all of the players came back after lockdown looking very fit, and most of us had lost weight,” Hameed said.

“Who knows when we will be able to get back, but hopefully we can start playing again soon.”

Updated: July 1, 2020 07:12 AM

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