Khurram Khan dreams of return to UAE national cricket set-up

Former captain prepares for second innings and has started coaching kids at Sharjah Cricket Academy

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Given how sparkling the achievements were during the playing career of arguably the greatest UAE cricketer, it feels odd to consider Khurram Khan a late bloomer.

But the facts are clear. He only started out in leather-ball cricket aged 18, during his first year of university in his hometown of Multan.

He made his official one-day international debut for his adopted UAE aged 33, when he took the wicket of Yuvraj Singh in a match in Sri Lanka.

He oversaw qualification for two World Cups as UAE captain while in his 40s. And he still holds the record for being the oldest player to score a maiden century in ODI cricket, having done so against Afghanistan aged 43.

All of which makes it perfectly logical to assume he can make a success of his latest crack at the game now he is closing in on his 51st birthday.

Khurram finished 23 years of employment with Emirates airline at the start of this year. Now he is looking for new full-time employment, ideally in the sport he loves.

“If not, anything that means staying in Dubai that would be great because my children [three sons] are settled in school, and have A-levels and O-levels coming up in June,” Khurram said.

“I want to remain in the UAE until their exams, but then, let’s see where life takes me.

“It might not be here, and that would be sad. I have spent 26 years in UAE, but I may have to choose now because of the kids’ education.

“Preferably it will be here. I have spent the best years of my life here.”

Khurram first arrived in UAE in 1996 after graduating from university, to play for a prominent domestic cricket team, Malik News Agency.

“They had a pretty good team, and back then domestic cricket used to be very strong, with five or six 50-over tournaments,” he said.

“There were lots of good teams. They had a good team. They hired me and said, ‘if you perform we will hire you [full-time]’.

“In the first match I played, I scored a hundred. So in my first month here, I got a job as a cricketer. I was working in the office as well, but it was mainly just playing cricket.”

Khurram has been coaching part time at Sharjah Cricket Academy since May 2021, including teaching the rudiments of the game to children just starting out. He says it is a world away from playing.

“I was involved in professional cricket and played in a couple of World Cups [T20 in 2014 and ODI a year later], and when I arrived in UAE, I was already at that level where I was playing A-Division cricket,” he said.

“Now, when you go back to coaching kids, you don’t realise they don’t understand that technical language. You have to make them understand, demonstrate everything, show them how to move their head and body towards the ball, follow the line of the ball.

“It is a totally different thing. If you talk to a professional team, it is mostly mental. There is not a lot of the technical side.

“Here, when you are teaching kids, it is everything from ABC. If you want to be a good coach, it is a very good place to start.”

He is aware he is just starting out in coaching, but already has one successful project to show for his abilities. His middle son, Rayan, has been excelling in age-group cricket.

And Khurram has clear aspirations. His ultimate ambition is to one day return to help guide the national team which he served with such distinction.

“It is a dream that the team you played for, you could end up coaching them,” Khurram said.

“But I don’t think there is any kind of set up within UAE cricket where you can even talk to anybody.

“I don’t even know if my email is even going through to the office that I am interested in coaching. It has been hard, but I am trying.”

Updated: April 21, 2022, 11:19 AM
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