Asif Khan targets national team call up after strong start to Emirates D50

Ajman batsman is hoping to earn a debut for UAE as soon as he becomes eligible for selection

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Given the long gap between international assignments – and with no confirmed end in sight – domestic cricketers might be forgiven for giving up on the aspiration of representing the UAE.

The national team last played a competitive fixture in mid-January. They have seen two Cricket World Cup League series postponed in the meantime, and, seven months later, there is still no official confirmation as to when they will play next.

Then bear in mind the fact the UAE will be ghosts at their own party when the biggest global tournament yet to be staged in this country comes to town in the coming months.

The T20 World Cup will be played in UAE and Oman in October and November. Oman qualified to play in it. UAE did not, making the competition a rare case of a major global sporting event taking place without one of its host nations participating.

And yet a place in the national team remains something to covet, according to Asif Khan.

The 31-year-old batsman has established himself as one of the leading batsmen in the country over the space of the best part of four years he has been resident here.

He is counting down the days – he has two months left, he reckons – until he is eligible for selection for the national team on residency grounds.

Given that he has already trained with the UAE team, it is fair to assume he is on the selectors’ radar.

He could not fail to be, given his success in domestic cricket. Most recently, he has made back-to-back half-centuries in the new Emirates D50 competition.

Asif, who is originally from Pakistan and has a decade’s worth of experience of English league cricket, too, passed up a chance to move to Canada in favour of staying on to try an represent UAE.

And he wants to play with them in the biggest competitions, too. “Every player’s dream is to play in a World Cup,” Asif said.

As a former first-class cricketer in Pakistan, he is no stranger to longer format matches, but tournaments like the D50 are few and far between in the UAE.

He believes the new 50-over competition will benefit aspiring players.

“Until now we have only really played T10 and T20 cricket, and this is a bit different,” he said, after helping Ajman to a seven-wicket win over Abu Dhabi on Monday.

“Playing 50-over cricket is tough in these conditions. It is so hot.

“You have young guys, it is good for them to learn what it is like to play 50-over cricket.”

In addition to a national team call up, Asif is hoping to feature in the Abu Dhabi T10 again in November, having played alongside some of his heroes when he featured for Pune Devils and Deccan Gladiators in the past.

“It is very good experience,” he said.

“My favourite player is Shane Watson, and to share the dressing room with him was a good experience for me.

“He would come to practice, hit two or three balls, and if he had a good feeling about his batting even after such a short time he would finish practice.

“He said there was no point hitting 70, 80, 90 balls. So I have taken that from him.”

Updated: August 31, 2021, 6:47 AM