Ethan D’Souza grabbed a last-minute opportunity with both hands as the UAE cricketer became the youngest player ever to represent Team Abu Dhabi in Abu Dhabi T10 on Wednesday night.
The 16-year-old Zayed Cricket Academy batsman was included in the playing XI after teammate Alishan Sharafu rolled his ankle during the warm-up and featured for the capital franchise against Deccan Gladiators at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.
The Grade 11 pupil at Abu Dhabi Indian School went on to safely hold a catch in the deep to remove Sultan Ahmed on a memorable night for the youngster, with his family watching in the stands.
“It was a great feeling,” D’Souza said. “You never expect opportunities like this but when you get them, you just want to do well.
“I saw my friends and family in the ground and it showed me where I was two or three years ago when I came to watch the Abu Dhabi T10 as a fan. I'm so grateful for this opportunity and I want to make the most of it in this tournament.
“I was nervous for the first two or three overs but when I got used to it, it was the same. Every game, you have to watch the ball and when the catch came I just told myself to do what I do.”
Team Abu Dhabi coach Paul Farbrace was proud of the youngster's performance and backed him to do well in the future.
“I thought Ethan was outstanding, he was brilliant in the field, he took his catch well, he was calm under pressure and he's practiced brilliantly the past couple of days,” Farbrace said.
“Ethan was a real bonus for us and also for kids in the region and kids here in Abu Dhabi to see that if you practice and play well, the right way, opportunities will come your way and he was a real credit to himself and his family.
“This was fantastic for Zayed Cricket Academy and Abu Dhabi Cricket and Sports Hub to think that a young man at the age of 16 can come into the team, be selected and play in the first game of the tournament.
“It's absolutely brilliant and it should act as a real incentive for young cricketers in the region that, if they work hard, the opportunities will be there for them.”
Team Abu Dhabi, however, came up short against the Gladiators, succumbing to a 35-run defeat. Gladiators made 134-6 before restricting Team Abu Dhabi to 99-6.
But Farbrace said D'Souza's performance was a big plus.
“It's bitterly disappointing that we haven't won the game but we're delighted that all the good work that's happening at the Zayed Cricket Academy and Abu Dhabi Cricket and Sports Hub is actually paying fruit. It speaks volumes for the coaches and the academy,” he added.
Team Abu Dhabi welcomed England international James Vince into the squad on the eve of the tournament, with the 31-year-old opening batter replacing compatriot Phil Salt, who misses out due to injury.
Leg-spinner Adil Rashid will also join up with his Team Abu Dhabi teammates on Thursday and will be available for selection when the side are next in action against Delhi Bulls on Friday.