Ali Abid living his dream after taking leap of faith to pursue full-time cricket career

Pakistan-born all-rounder picked up by local franchise for Abu Dhabi T10 and has also been called up for UAE national team camp

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It takes immense courage to move out of your comfort zone and pursue your passion, especially if it means a significant drop in earnings and no guarantee of success.

That's the risk Ali Abid took when he left his day job of seven years at NMC Hospital in January to play as a local professional in UAE cricket.

Abid is a free agent and plays for any team in competitions his contracted side doesn’t enter. However, his decision to become a full-time cricketer meant his monthly income dropped by 50 per cent. But, as they say, fortune favours the brave.

It has all started to fall in place for the Pakistan-born all-rounder. Abid, 28, was picked for Team Abu Dhabi in the Abu Dhabi T10 which takes place from November 23 to December 4.

Then this week, he was called up to a UAE national team camp. With the Emirates' inaugural International T20 League – slated for January – also on his radar, hiss bravery has been vindicated.

“It was a hard decision to leave my day job, which meant I had to work harder to earn my livelihood through cricket,” Abid, who plies his trade in the Northern Emirates for his main patron Vision Shipping, told The National.

“My income may have dropped substantially but I’m super happy to play cricket full-time and realise my childhood dream of playing in an international tournament.

“To get picked for Team Abu Dhabi in the T10 was a dream come true and then to receive a call-up for the UAE national team camp was an absolute delight. I don’t have words to describe how happy I am.”

Abid is the youngest in a family of four boys and four girls. As is the case in many households back home, the journey in cricket was tough.

He played tennis-ball cricket with kids in his neighbourhood, and his eldest brother, Asif Raza, who played domestic cricket, felt Abid had the potential to play the game at a higher level.

Ali Abid bats for Team Abu Dhabi against Fujairah in the final of the Emirates D20. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“I was 12 when my brother took me to a local club and I made it into the team because of my fielding,” Abid said. “I played for the school team when I was in grade six. I started as a bowler and later played as a batter for both the school and club."

Abid progressed well at the club and his brother decided to take him to Rawalpindi due to the lack of quality cricket facilities in their home town of Chishtian in Multan.

On his brother’s request, Kamran Saud and Muhammad Ejaz – a retired army captain – helped Abid with his lodging, living expenses and even equipment.

Abid played for the age-group team and graduated to the senior team at Mughal Club. He was picked for the Pakistan Under-15 national team camp, and later played for the senior team at his club and then Multan district. However, financial issues forced him to look for employment abroad.

Nisar Ahmed – a senior teammate from his club at Rawalpindi – was employed at NMC and urged him try his luck in the UAE.

“I got employed and NMC had a pretty good side playing in the Division 1,” he said.

Ali Abid, the Abu Dhabi men’s team captain, getting ready for practice at the Zayed Cricket Academy. Pawan Singh / The National

At NMC, Abid played alongside former UAE captain Saqib Ali and national team quick Manjula Guruge. He won many player-of-the-match awards and domestic titles, including the Bukhatir League – the oldest tournament in the country.

“I had to do a job to support my family back home," Abid said. "We had lots of financial issues at that time and until last year. Then, the burden was reduced and that’s when I decided to take a chance and play full-time cricket.”

He led Abu Dhabi to their first final in the Emirates D20 in June, and when he got picked by Team Abu Dhabi for the T10, his dream came true.

“All my focus is now on cricket,” he said. “I’m fitter and better, and playing true to my potential. Of course, I still have a long way to go but I feel my game has improved tremendously since I started playing full-time."

In the Bukhatir League this season, Abid scored two centuries for Vision Shipping. One of them came against Future Mattress, which was led by UAE international Rohan Mustafa. He was the third highest run-scorer – behind Yasir Kaleem and Moazam Hayat – in the tournament.

“To be in Abu Dhabi T10 is a great opportunity and also a chance to share and learn from the international stars,” he said. “I hope I get a chance to play. If that happens, and if I can perform, my cricketing career will take a new turn."

Updated: November 04, 2022, 10:06 AM
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