When Ahmed Raza was invited to train with Australia at Lord’s back in 2019, the UAE captain probably thought his summer holiday could not really get much better.
Looking back now, though, that stint mixing with some of the world’s leading players at the Home of Cricket was really just a footnote to the real story of the trip.
On October 23, a little over two years after they were first introduced to each other via mutual friends during his time in London, Raza married Mehreen Tahir.
Now, after scarcely a month of wedded bliss living together in Dubai, Mehreen is already set for an introduction to the life of a 'cricket widow'.
Raza is flying off to Windhoek to lead the national team in their Cricket World Cup League Two tri-series against Namibia and Oman.
Happily, she was well briefed on what it might be like being married to an international sportsman.
“I know he’s doing what he loves, and to see that cricket is finally back is amazing because it means the world is returning to normal,” Mehreen said.
“I know what I signed up for, and I am a cricket fanatic myself. I absolutely love cricket. Even before I met Ahmed, my first ever visit to UAE was to go to the stadium in Abu Dhabi to watch Pakistan and Australia.
“It is amazing that I’m married to a cricketer now. My dad played, and it is a sport that has been around my family for a long time. All my sisters are into it.
“When the big games happen all the family gets together. We have all been watching Ahmed’s matches at home. It was such a proud moment.”
While Raza is in Namibia, his wife will be back in England attempting to tie up the loose ends on her transfer to Dubai, with her job as a business analyst for a corporation which produces perfumes.
It seems apt that their life as newlyweds is a little complex, given what they went through to actually get married. As is the way of the world at present, little ran smoothly.
A case of Covid within Mehreen’s family meant none of them were able to travel to Pakistan for the planned festivities – including the bride herself.
The service was eventually conducted over Zoom, before they subsequently travelled to Istanbul, which is where they first met as husband and wife.
“Everything was ready for us, but God had different plans,” Raza said. “We were just happy and thankful that eventually it happened, and everything is good.
“Since we got back from Turkey I haven’t had a day off as we have been training for Namibia.
“That has been another thing she has been dealing with. She has already had to deal with quite a lot.”
Mehreen is equally sanguine about what has happened. “There was a lot of drama involved but the end goal was just for us to be married,” she said.
“We will take that. We are thinking of doing something next year once I’ve finally moved here.”
Raza says he remains focused on the day job, despite his change in personal status.
“We haven’t played the Cricket World Cup League for a year and a half now,” Raza said.
“The focus remains the same for us. It is going to be challenging for us because Oman and Namibia are both coming off decent outings at the T20 World Cup.
“This is a different format [50 overs], and we have done well against Namibia in the past. We have only played one game against Oman so far, so we are really looking to get some points there.
“We have been waiting for this. An extra game [a fixture against Oman is outstanding after it was postponed because of the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said in 2020] means an extra chance for two points. We are happy that game wasn’t called off and the points were shared.”
The World Cup League is part of the qualifying process for the 2023 World Cup. If the UAE do make it to that competition, it could pit them against Pakistan – meaning a test of the loyalties of Mehreen, who has always supported Pakistan.
Only it would not be a test at all, really. “Obviously my husband and UAE,” she said, when asked who she would support if that scenario ever did come to pass.