Mohammed Nabi: I hope my son and I can play together for Afghanistan

Star Afghanistan all-rounder fulfils another ambition by playing alongside son Hassan Khan in Sharjah

Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

As one of Afghanistan’s pioneering refugee-turned-international cricketers, the dreams Mohammed Nabi has already ticked off are many.

First, there was the simple feat of raising a team to represent the country from the embers of war.

Then said team rose improbably through the echelons of international cricket, right to the very top.

They played at World Cups, first in T20, then the big one. They took proper scalps along the way, too, with such frequency that the ICC deemed them worthy of membership of the Test-playing elite.

All the while, Nabi was at the team’s core. His feats of muscular derring-do as an all-rounder brought personal accolades, too. He was made captain of his country. He was affectionately nicknamed “The President”.

He earned deals to play in all the world’s leading franchise leagues, and has been an Indian Premier League regular.

And then, this week, he achieved a far more everyday ambition. The sort of thing to which any sporting father could relate. He played in the same team as his son.

It might have seemed like “bring your kid to work” week at the CBFS T20 at Sharjah Cricket Stadium. In fact, it was the other way round. Eisakhil (the family’s tribal name) Senior was only invited because of his son.

Nabi, who moved his family to Ajman last year in response to the growing unrest in Afghanistan, is currently between elite engagements.

In a bid to keep his eye in before the Pakistan Super League, or Afghanistan’s series against Zimbabwe, he jumped at an invitation to join Bukhatir XI in the Sharjah-based T20 tournament.

Mohammed Nabi batting with his son Hassan Khan in Sharjah. Chris Whiteoak / The National

That put him in alliance with his son, Hassan Khan, who has been excelling for the team since he was recruited last year.

“It was my hope we would play together once — and that we could play together in the national team,” Nabi said.

“I will try to play a few more years for Afghanistan, and a few more years in leagues too.

“Hassan will grow more, and hopefully play Under 19s. If he has the ability to play for the national team, then hopefully he will play for the national team.

“In a proper league, it is [the first time] we have played together. It is nice. He is under pressure. But he is a good talent.”

Hassan, 16, has been enrolled in the Sharjah Cricket Academy since last year. It means regular use of nets and bowling machines, as well as centre-wicket training on a field which was recently used for the T20 World Cup.

Hassan Khan, wearing an orange Sunrisers Hyderabad helmet, bats for Bukhatir XI against The Vision Shipping in the CBFS T20 league in Sharjah. Chris Whiteoak/ The National

His kit-bag is a treasure trove of hand-me-downs from his dad. For instance, while father Nabi was wearing his red Afghanistan helmet while batting for Bukhatir XI on Thursday night, his son followed him to the crease wearing an orange Sunrisers Hyderabad one.

While their style and appearance is uncannily similar, their routes into the game could not have been any more different.

Hassan wants for nothing in terms of kit, facilities, or even encouragement from his dad.

The contrast is stark. Nabi learnt the game in the rutted wasteland of refugee camps Pakistan, against the wishes of his own father.

“Our families wouldn’t allow us to play cricket,” Nabi said. “[But] Hassan I know has good talent, which is why I give him more opportunities, at these good facilities, to play cricket.

“In my childhood, I didn’t have anything for myself. But Hassan has all these things.

“It is totally different. I have told him, the facilities I had when I learnt cricket were not like this. I wasn’t allowed to an academy, and there wasn’t a proper facility for me to play cricket.

Mohammad Nabi bowling for Bukhatir XI in Sharjah. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“He has everything. He is using my shoes, my gloves, my pads, bat, helmet. He has everything in his kit bag.

“He is a good student. I told him: first studies, then cricket.”

While Hassan is unlikely to ever have to face the hardships his father did, Nabi points out that not everything will be easy for him in the game. After all, he points out, there is the burden of a famous family name.

“I told him it is not easy,” Nabi said. “Because of my name, there is more pressure on you. Work harder, and try to make more of the ability you have been given.

“People will say: ‘You are the son of Mohammed Nabi.’ That will be extra pressure on you, not on me.”

Having already proved himself a player of some promise against the best domestic bowlers UAE have to offer, Hassan went a step further last week.

Hassan Khan waits to bat for Bukhatir XI. Chris Whiteoak/ The National

Playing against former Pakistan pace bowler Mohammed Amir and South Africa leg-spinner Imran Tahir in the CBFS tournament, he thrived.

“He always asks me questions: ‘How is this league? How are the differences to other leagues.’ I will explain that the quality of the players is the same, but the pressure is greater,” Nabi said.

“When he played for the first time against Mohammed Amir and Imran Tahir, after the game he told me: ‘I couldn’t even see the first ball from Amir.’

“But he had watched lots of videos of Amir, of the early movement he has when he bowls. After that, he played really well.

“He got more confidence from that. He realised he has the ability to do it.”

Updated: January 23, 2022, 5:26 AM