x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE off-spinner Nasir Aziz took a job that comes with cricket perks

Pakistani is the youngest of seven siblings and has found a niche as an off-spinner for UAE national team, writes Amith Passela.

UAE bowler Nasir Aziz, right, celebrates with wicketkeeper Abdul Shakoor after they combine to dismiss Canada captain Rizwan Cheema during their ODI in Ontario. Chris Young / For The National
UAE bowler Nasir Aziz, right, celebrates with wicketkeeper Abdul Shakoor after they combine to dismiss Canada captain Rizwan Cheema during their ODI in Ontario. Chris Young / For The National

Being the youngest in a family does have its advantages.

Nasir Aziz was the last of five boys and two girls. That meant he was given the chance to play cricket while his parents pressured the elder siblings to study hard.

"Nobody was into sport because we were a middle-class family, and the priority was to focus on education and find decent employment," Aziz said. "My father and older siblings were always after me to keep my focus on studies, but my first love was to play cricket and I wanted to pursue a career in the sport. They eventually allowed me to play cricket, particularly my mother, who not only granted me the permission but encouraged and supported me."

Saji ul Mulk, the chairman of Dubai company Mulk Holdings, spotted Aziz at a local tournament while on a visit to Pakistan.

"He was a friend of the owner of my team," Aziz said. "I was offered a job to work and play for his team in the UAE. That's how I landed in Dubai. I am happy as I was when I first joined the company in 2006. I love to play cricket and here I get to play as well as earn a living.

"It is not easy to be in good shape for cricket in the UAE, though. The cricketers here need to do a day job and then find time for training and play matches. When you are with a family, it becomes much harder. For me, fortunately my boss is a cricketer as well as a cricket administrator. He has given the cricketers flexible working hours.

"I play full-time for my employer, but my boss grants permission to play for any team of my choice when our team is not entered in any of the domestic competitions. I couldn't have wished for anything more."

Aziz is the captain of Alubond Tigers, formerly known as Eurocon.

The off-spinner, 27, had some fantastic recent performances for the UAE on the tour of Canada and in the Asian Cricket Council Emerging Teams tournament in Singapore.

Aziz took 13 wickets against Canada in the four-day Intercontinental Cup, the two 50-over-a-side World Cricket League Championship, and the two Twenty20 games.

He returned with a 17-wicket haul, including a List A career best five for 17, against Bangladesh U23 and five for 51 over India Under 23 in the Emerging Teams tournament in Singapore last month.

He once took eight wickets in one innings in a two-day match in Karachi, and then scored 83 not out, but says his recent performance in the four games against India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Singapore was even better than that.

"I didn't do anything special, but bowled more confidently," he said. "I was given some bowling guidelines by the coach Aaqib Javed and just went out there and followed his instructions."

The UAE play Namibia in a home series later this month, followed by the 2014 ICC World T20 Cup qualifiers in November.

"Obviously, I want to take this momentum forward," he said.

apassela@thenational.ae

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