New UAE batter Khalid Shah: ‘I have waited my entire life for this moment’

Sharjah-raised opener says he is living his dream after selection for national team’s tour of Nepal

Khalid Shah made his international debut for the UAE at the recent tri-series in Nepal.  Ruel Pableo for The National
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Earlier this month, after reaching a typically rapid half-century, Khalid Shah marked the milestone by making the signal of a talking hand next to the face of his bat.

It has become a well-used gesture by players in recent times and the meaning is obvious: I’ll let my bat do the talking.

Shah, who was raised in Sharjah and now works at the cricket stadium, has been waiting patiently for higher honours in cricket.

In the ILT20 development tournament at the ICC Academy, he hit 70 in 47 balls, then 50 in 31 balls in successive games. His bat wasn’t so much talking as shouting loudly.

It was not enough to earn him an ILT20 deal, but he has since been rewarded with his first call-up to the national team.

The 27-year-old left-hander debuted in the UAE’s tri-series success against Nepal and Hong Kong in Kathmandu last week.

He has been retained in the 15-man squad for the T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier, where the national team will be chasing a place at the main event in the Caribbean next year.

“It feels like I am living my dream,” Shah said. “There have been lots of competitions and so there was always a chance for me. One or two good performances can get you noticed. I feel that is exactly what happened.

“I have had a couple of good seasons, and some good performances in the D-series and the ILT20 development tournament opened the door for me, and a lot of local cricketers.”

Those back-to-back half-centuries in the ILT20 tournament were littered with massive sixes. Two went out of the Academy entirely and nearly ended up on Hessa Street.

Although it was not enough to catch the eye of the franchise scouts, he is thrilled it has helped him on his way to the national setup.

“Those performances boosted my confidence,” he said. “That sign [when he reached 50] was me saying, ‘Look at this.’ Unfortunately, I missed out [on an ILT20 contract] this year as well, but there was still something good coming up for me.

“I am really grateful that I got a call-up for the national team. It is a proud moment for me, my family, my friends, and everybody who has helped and supported me.

“Sharjah Cricket Council and the ECB give us world-class facilities, despite us being just an associate nation.

“There is everything for the players. They called me for training, nets and the practice matches, then a couple of days before I came to know I was travelling to Nepal with the team. It was a dream-come-true moment.”

Shah started out in cricket playing tape ball in the street with friends. He was invited to try more formal cricket, and enlisted at the Sharjah Cricket Academy.

I am really grateful that I got a call-up for the national team. It is a proud moment for me, my family, my friends, and everybody who has helped and supported me
Khalid Shah, UAE cricketer

He was inspired first by Shahid Afridi, and latterly Babar Azam and Virat Kohli. He has also taken inspiration from closer to home, in the form of his new captain.

“When I scored a duck in my first game, Muhammad Waseem came to speak to me,” Shah said of his debut against Nepal in Mulpani.

“He is a captain who thinks about his players. He said to me, ‘Khalid, you know I am sure you are going to score big.’

“I said, ‘Bro, I’m not sure. I have just scored a duck.’ He said, ‘You know how I know why? Because I scored a duck on my ODI debut, too.’

“When he told me that, it gave me a lot of confidence. The next day I scored a quick-fire 37 against Hong Hong, and he was there at the non-striker’s end guiding me through every step.”

He may be new to the international game, but Shah is learning quickly – not least about the extent of the UAE’s growing rivalry with Nepal.

“When I came here I wasn’t expecting that much of a crowd. This is my first international tour,” he said. “If I’m not wrong there were 10,000 people there in Mulpani. I was thinking, ‘Come on, this is the platform you have to perform on’.

“I have waited my entire life for this moment. No doubt, I was nervous initially. But when you have a captain like Muhammad Waseem, a leader by true means, and a coach like Ahmed Raza, plus our entire staff, it has given me confidence.”

Updated: October 29, 2023, 7:34 AM