Cricket player Rohan Mustafa came to the UAE from Pakistan and nearly gave up the sport so he could take care of his loved ones, writes Amith Passela.
Family always comes first for UAE cricketer Rohan Mustafa
Life has been a challenge for the UAE all-rounder Rohan Mustafa.
He was 10 when his family moved from Kohat, Pakistan, to Sharjah, where his father, Mustafa Kamal, had a car-sales business.
But tragedy struck when he was 15. His father passed away suddenly and life became a struggle for the youngster.
"It took me a while to come to terms after that loss," said Mustafa, 25. "My childhood dream was to play for Pakistan and my father had provided everything that I needed to pursue my cricket."
Mustafa remembers getting up at 2am to watch Pakistan play in a televised series in New Zealand.
"I was only eight at that time," he said. "That's the type of craze I had for this game. I craved to play from that time, but my parents thought I was too young and not safe in Pakistan."
Mustafa got that opportunity when his father decided to relocate the family to the UAE. He was enrolled in the Sharjah Cricket Academy and came under the tutelage of Irfan Ansari, the head coach.
"He taught me to A to Z in batting, bowling, and fielding," he said. "I was a quick learner, because I already had a good knowledge of the game by watching it on TV."
Mustafa played for the Sharjah academy and Pakistan Islamia School, and was selected for the UAE in the Asian Cricket Council Under 19 Elite Cup in Malaysia in August 2007.
He won two man-of-the-match awards, for his 66 against Malaysia and five for 20 against Thailand.
However, Mustafa soon had to put his cricket career on hold.
"When I returned from the Under 19 tour, I found my family condition wasn't good," he said. "I was left with no choice but leave cricket and find a job."
Fortunately for him, Adil Mirza, the chief executive and founder of Phoenix Medicine, provided him with employment and enrolled him in the company cricket team.
"He has been like an older brother to me until today," Mustafa said.
"He has helped me all through and still does. He didn't even stop me when I received an offer to play and work for a new company, Danube."
Mustafa, who bats left-handed and bowls right-arm slow, led the Danube Lions to their first trophy, the Al Hamad Division 1 tournament in Abu Dhabi, last weekend.
"The level of cricket has seen a marked improvement from last year with several team principals employing cricketers who have played first-class cricket in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka," he said.
"This season, there were also players from South Africa, the West Indies, Ireland, and the Afghanistan national team in various tournaments. To raise the level of the domestic competitions is to improve the UAE cricket."
Mustafa was picked for the senior national team for the first time on their tour of South Africa for the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 in November 2007, but did not play in any games.
He is hoping to earn a spot on the UAE's tour to Canada for the ICC Intercontinental Cup in August, then be part of the team when they host the 2014 World Twenty20 Cup qualifier in October.
"To play good cricket you need to work hard," he said. "It is not easy to have a day job and play cricket in the UAE. Yet, with some sacrifice, one can achieve the objectives.
"For me, to be selected in the UAE U19 team and perform provided me the platform."
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