x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Naeemuddin Aslam: a cricketer at large

The wicketkeeper-batsman gives an insight into the daily routine of an international cricketer in the UAE.

Naeemuddin Aslam, the UAE wicketkeeper-batsman, is a man of routine and discipline as he packs every single day with activity whether it be at home or on the cricket field.
Naeemuddin Aslam, the UAE wicketkeeper-batsman, is a man of routine and discipline as he packs every single day with activity whether it be at home or on the cricket field.

Naeemuddin Aslam is a mainstay of the UAE side, but has had to pull out of the squad for their tour of Bermuda after he was made redundant by his former employer. As a wicketkeeper-batsman, he is one of the country's leading players - even when he had to juggle cricket with his job as an IT architect, as well as studying for a masters degree. He gives an insight into the daily routine of an international cricketer in the UAE.

About two months ago now I was made redundant, so these days my routine is a little bit different. I get up around 8am, have breakfast and coffee then get immediately onto the computer to check my e-mails to see if I have any leads. At the moment I am spending most of my time in front of the laptop. I am on LinkedIn and other networking sites, making sure I do not miss anything. Each minute seems to take about five hours. Time does not seem to pass. It is painfully slow.

At about 10am I will start making calls to recruitment companies, seeing if anything has unfolded which they might not have e-mailed me about. There is always a constant distraction. Now the football World Cup is on, so the television is always on. When I lost my job, the World Twenty20 was going on and that was a major distraction. Thankfully, most of the games were in the afternoon and evening, so I had most of the day to send my e-mails and do the other things I need to do.

Since April I have been playing all my games for Eurocon in Sharjah competitions, and Arab Udupi in Abu Dhabi. If we are playing in Abu Dhabi, I meet up with Vikrant Shetty, my club mate who has also played for the UAE national team, at 5.30pm and we travel down together. I get back home at around 1.30am. If I can't sleep I will usually either read or watch an old cricket match on TV. The first few times I played late-night matches like this, it was really tiring, but after a while your body just gets used to it.

There were times when I got home at 4am and still got up at 6am and went to work. It still felt as if I had had a full night's sleep. Your body just gets attuned. Occasionally you feel a little lousy, but you just shake it off and hope there was no practice the next day. I live close to Internet City in Dubai, so when I was working at the office, it was not possible to keep driving there and back.

I had to have my cricket kit ready the previous evening so when I left home in the morning I could go straight on to practise in Sharjah. I would leave home at 7am. My office was on Baniyas Road in Deira. There was no way I would ever get a parking slot next to my office, so I would park in Bur Dubai and take the water bus across, in time for an 8am start. Office hours were 8am-4pm, and after that I would make my way to Sharjah. I would get there a good hour and 45 minutes before practice, but there was no point going home and getting stuck in traffic on the Shiekh Zayed Road.

To while away the time I might meet up with Chitrala Sudhaker, the UAE physio whose accommodation is at Sharjah Stadium. If he was not there I would go for prayer, then get ready 30 minutes earlier for practice. Fridays are totally different. During the first year of my job, I was working six days per week. On the Friday I would play a game for my employers, usually in a 25-over cement league in Ajman or Umm al Qaiwain, then play in a 50-over game in Abu Dhabi in the afternoon.

It was crazy. The first match would start at 8.15am, finish at 11.30am. From there we would get in the car, stop for prayers along the way, reach Abu Dhabi, play a 50-over game, then get home in the middle of the night. But I would still be up for work on the Saturday morning. I cannot remember taking time off which was not related to cricket - ever. The only time I can think of was in 2007 when we went to Chennai for my brother Amin's wedding.

It all fell apart in the space of half an hour. The boss called me in and said: "Thank you, but that is it." Perhaps he is not a cricket fan. * Interview by Paul Radley