x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Time stands still for evergreen UAE captain Khurram Khan

The 40-year-old leads the Emirates in their World Cup 2015 qualifier against Afghanistan at Sharjah Cricket Stadium, starting tomorrow.

Khurram Khan, the UAE batsman, has scored 144 runs in three innings against Afghanistan over the past seven days going in to today’s World Cup 2015 qualifier.
Khurram Khan, the UAE batsman, has scored 144 runs in three innings against Afghanistan over the past seven days going in to today’s World Cup 2015 qualifier.

SHARJAH // By the time the next cricket World Cup comes around, the man currently performing the most extraordinary feats on the field to get the national team there will be 44.

However, if all the labours do bear fruit and the UAE qualify for Australia and New Zealand in 2015, expect Khurram Khan, their Captain Fantastic, to be on the plane. And in a playing, rather than working, capacity.

The man is clearly ageless. His profile says he is 40, but he has looked nearer to 19, given his efforts of both skill and endurance against Afghanistan over the past week.

While the full-time Afghan players were fine tuning their preparations last week for a four-day match and then two 50 overs qualifying matches against the UAE, the second of which starts today, Khurram fitted in a round-trip to Houston, Texas.

His job as a flight steward for Emirates Airline does not allow him to commit his entire focus to cricket duties. But do not doubt his commitment.

"That is where it becomes a little harder," he said when ruminating on the idea of running up and down the aisle on long-haul flights to keep his fitness up.

"I always keep in touch with [the UAE physio] Chitrala Sudhakar and he has given me a plan and if I am in Houston or Australia or London I can keep to that plan.

"I try to run every day for half an hour or 40 minutes ...

"But in cricket, you cannot survive if you don't come to the ground, so when I get time I come here alone and ask someone to bowl to me."

Back in 2008, when Khurram played a lead role in the UAE qualifying for the 2010 Asia Cup (although they subsequently did not play as the tournament was downgraded) he said he would "definitely not" still be playing in 2010.

That deadline has passed and he is still going strong, having somehow become an even more seminal figure for the national team.

He has scored 144 runs in three innings against the Afghans over the past seven days, and took four wickets in the tense limited overs win on Monday night.

Khurram is not the only national team player for whom the day job must come first. The Afghans are among the favourites to qualify for the World Cup partly because the vast majority of their squad play cricket full-time.

It is not the case for the UAE. For example, Arshad Ali, who has taken 11 wickets in three innings against Afghanistan, was back on duty in the Emirates commercial visa office yesterday, the day between the two World Cup qualifying matches.

Kabir Khan, the UAE coach, believes his players deserve credit for their ability to compete with the best sides beyond the Test scene.

"Whether we win or lose, the way we are fighting at the moment is excellent," said Kabir, who recommended performance related financial bonuses for his players when he rejoined the team this year. "You can see some of the players have fitness problems because they cannot train fully because they are not professional.

"They have to go to their work, then come back and play, but they all give 100 per cent, and that is what we want."

pradley@thenational.ae


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