Ramadan fuels Hamza Tahir's excellence as Scotland make winning start in Dubai

Left-arm spinner says fine form in wins over Papua New Guinea and Oman has been aided by extra prayers and fasting during the Holy Month

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As the clock ticked past 11pm on Sunday night, Hamza Tahir was still buzzing. No wonder the adrenaline was racing.

Moments earlier, the Glaswegian spin-bowler had clinched victory for Scotland in a classic one-day international against Oman via a stunning catch under the “ring of fire” floodlights at Dubai International Stadium.

He had celebrated by tearing around the outfield. He was met with the imposing presence of his spin partner Mark Watt, who cleaned him out, prompting a euphoric pile on by the rest of their teammates.

For the second time in two days, Tahir had played a key role in victory for Scotland. The previous night, he had been similarly outstanding with the ball, and started off with an extraordinary, one-handed diving caught and bowled, as Scotland beat Papua New Guinea.

This time he had asphyxiated Oman with his left-arm spin, before adding the glorious exclamation mark with the catch that settled a thrilling four-run win.

And all fuelled by a couple of glasses of water. For the first time in his life, Tahir is on tour during the Holy Month. He is fasting on all but the four match days Scotland have during their Cricket World Cup League 2 tri-series.

“On game days I carry on as normal but still try to eat less because when you are fasting your stomach shrinks,” Tahir said. “On game days I have not eaten, I have just had a couple of glasses of water. I’m fasting again tomorrow, and looking forward to it.

“Spiritually, I feel really good. I am praying as much as I can. It’s great because staying in a hotel means you can pray as much as possible. I feel that has a big impact on your life.

“The more you pray, the clearer your mind is. I feel like that has really helped my game the past couple of days. Fasting during this trip has been amazing.”

Particularly so given the tour destination is the UAE, he says. On Friday, which was the day before Scotland’s opening tour match, he and Safyaan Sharif, his Scotland teammate, attended prayers at a mosque near the team hotel in Umm Suqeim.

“It was the first Friday prayers of Ramadan, and it was a full house,” Tahir said. “It was nice to see. It is the first time I have ever been away while fasting.

“In the past, I have always been at home and fasting during the cricket season. It has been different. Here, everyone is doing the same thing.”

Back to back matches in the rising heat of early summer in Dubai has been an exhausting effort for all the players, even if Scotland’s fielding stints against PNG and Oman were both in the relative cool of the evening.

The timing of the matches have meant the innings break has coincided with iftar. Kyle Coetzer, the Scotland captain, has been amazed by how Tahir and Sharif have excelled given their altered diets at present.

“It is their decision how they want to manage it and they are doing it exceptionally well, to be honest,” Coetzer said. “We have a huge amount of respect for how they do it because it is certainly not an easy thing. It is amazing to see their discipline.”

When Tahir took the winning catch late in the night against Oman, his popularity was clear to see given the ensuing bundle.

Coetzer said his teammates appreciate both the value of his performances on the playing field, as well as all the hard work he has put in off it.

“He is an extremely popular member of the side,” Coetzer said of Tahir. “I think that is because of the amount of effort Hamza has put in. In terms of his fielding, he has worked extremely hard on it.

“In the past couple of games, he has stopped pretty much everything that has come to him. His fitness is incredible compared to where he was a couple of years ago.

“People who put in the effort the way Hamza has, they are going to get a lot of backing from their teammates. Everyone just wants him to do well.

“We are extremely proud of him and he deserves what he is getting. If you put the effort in the results will come your way.”

Updated: June 09, 2023, 1:05 PM