Rohan Mustafa: Pain of T20 World Cup omission ‘will remain in my heart forever’

All-rounder made fine comeback to UAE side in ODI win against Nepal but admits he is struggling to move on

Rohan Mustafa returned to the UAE side with a half century in the ODI victory over Nepal. Photo: Subas Humagain
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Rohan Mustafa says he will never be able to forget the hurt of his omission for the T20 World Cup, despite his successful comeback to the UAE side against Nepal.

The returning all-rounder made 53, then took one for 27 as the national team won by 84 runs in the first one-day international in Kathmandu on Monday.

It was his first appearance since he was cut from the side after the first game of the UAE’s failed Asia Cup Qualifying campaign in Oman in August.

The player who has made more limited-overs international appearances than any other UAE cricketer was then dropped from the squad for the T20 World Cup trip to Australia.

“You should feel like that,” Mustafa said, when asked if his half-century against Nepal was a sign that he had left last month’s disappointment in the past and moved on. “But things remain hurtful, and that will be forever.”

After receiving the text message telling him he had not made the World Cup squad, Mustafa was moved to tears. He said he cried more over the issue than he had when his father died when he was a teenager.

Mustafa has often spoken about the fact he plays cricket to honour his father. In the days before the World Cup, he wrote on social media: “I will never let my kids to become cricketer because I can’t see them broken as I’m [heartbroken].”

In a similarly emotional post after UAE’s last game in Geelong, he wrote “I wish I never started playing” and that he wished “my father’s dream was not this cricket”.

UAE beat Nepal in ODI

Asked if his time out of the side had made him feel as though he now had to make up for lost time, he said: “No, not at all. I have been struggling since the moment I first started playing cricket. I lost my father, and there were a lot of circumstances after that, but I believe I am a strong man.

“I was thinking to play cricket, but things were not in my favour. Of course, missing the World Cup will remain in my heart forever.

“It was a great opportunity and I was in the best form as well, except for one over against Kuwait [in the UAE’s shock loss in Asia Cup qualifying]. I still believe I can play for three or four more years.”

Mustafa’s return to the UAE side was brought about by a meeting a week ago with the side’s management.

“I said all I want to do is play for the UAE and I will always try my level best for the team,” he said. “After all, you can only try your best and work hard.”

Suggesting he made a strong return to UAE colours is incorrect on one count, though. It was the first time Mustafa had had the chance to play in the cerise and violet kit the UAE have adopted, after ditching the traditional grey.

“It is a good kit and a good colour,” Mustafa said. “Alhamdulillah [thank God] I am back in the UAE squad, and I did well. That is the main important thing.”

Mustafa could scarcely have picked a better venue for his return, either. The 34-year-old all-rounder is highly popular in Nepal, both for his performances in international cricket as well as an overseas player in domestic competitions in the country.

He was welcomed to the batting crease with a huge cheer from the crowd at Tribhuvan University, and his name was chanted when he fielded in front of the most vocal section.

After the game was finished, he also spent time posing for selfies with a number of supporters who had stayed behind to show their appreciation.

“When I was coming here I spoke to someone from Nepal and they said they love me a lot,” Mustafa said. “When they announced the series, I got a lot of messages from people saying, ‘Are you in the squad? We want you to come here.’

“When they support me like that, I get a lot more confidence. I was just trying to play my normal game. I forgot about everything that has happened. It is a part of life.”

Updated: November 15, 2022, 5:20 AM