UAE's Aayan Khan grows in confidence after early success home and away

Youngsters, who was part of victorious teams in ILT20 and Global T20 Canada, looking to test his skills against New Zealand

UAE's Aayan Khan has tasted success in the DP World International League T20 and the Global T20 Canada. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Not so long ago, the arrival of a side from a Test-playing nation to face the UAE in full international cricket was more or less unheard of.

New Zealand are here this week, to play three T20 internationals against UAE. They are en route to the UK for a late-summer limited overs tour and are without some of their most recognisable stars.

Kane Williamson is still on his way back from injury. Trent Boult will join them in the UK. And Lockie Ferguson is absent after becoming a late recruit for the Hundred in the UK.

Still, though, their tour squad is full of enviable talent, led by Indian Premier League stars like Tim Southee, Mitchell Santner, Jimmy Neesham and Kyle Jamieson.

Facing such a calibre of players might once have been daunting for the UAE players. Now, though, they are getting used to it, given the opportunities that have been afforded to them over the recent past.

Take Aayan Khan. The left-arm spinner is only 17 years old, yet has already played bilateral series against Bangladesh, Afghanistan and West Indies, as well as at a T20 World Cup.

He is growing increasingly used to playing alongside stars, too, as well as against them. Earlier this month he was part of a Montreal Tigers side who won the Global T20 Canada in Toronto.

Chris Lynn, Andre Russell and Carlos Brathwaite were among his teammates, and it was his second T20 winner's medal of the year. Between the GT20 and the DP World International League T20 in the UAE, Aayan’s record is played two, won two.

“Playing in the ILT20 and now GT20 has been so good in terms of meeting very good international players,” Aayan said.

“It has also been great to be part of winning teams in both of the leagues. Going to the GT20 was good for me as it gave me the chance to show my skills and make my name, and hopefully it means I will be able to play more leagues, Inshallah.”

Aayan travelled to Canada with the other UAE contingent of his Montreal team, Muhammad Waseem and Akif Raja.

He was also reunited with some familiar faces when he got there. Lynn, the captain, and Brathwaite were also part of the Gulf Giants team that won the ILT20.

“I had already been around them in the ILT20, and in that tournament we were together for almost one and a half months,” Aayan said.

“It meant they knew me when we got to the GT20. My skipper, Lynn, supported me a lot, and I got enough chances to make my name. It was nice to play with them again.

“Having known him for about six months now, [Brathwaite] is one of the guys who really takes care of me in those leagues.

“And because I had been with him in ILT20 I knew my skipper, so it was easy for me to go and speak with him and say, ‘I want to do this.’

“It was easy for me to talk with him. He helped me a lot. All the international players did. Andre Russell supported me.”

Despite being in the presence of T20 greatness, the teenager from Sharjah more than held his own. In the final against Surrey Jaguars, he took the key wickets of Pakistan’s Mohammed Haris and Litton Das, the fast-scoring Bangladesh batter.

“In the final our plan was straightforward: to take early wickets,” he said. “In GT, the turf was helping me a lot in all the games.

“The ball was moving away from the right handers and staying low as well. My plan was just to bowl at the stumps and try to take wickets. It just so happened that I got two important wickets.”

The national team will hope to have returned refreshed after their brief summer break. It was preceded by a disappointing run of defeats that led to the UAE missing out on qualification for the ODI World Cup in India later this year.

Another opportunity will be looming into view soon, though. The Asia Qualifier for the T20 World Cup will take place in Nepal in November, and Aayan thinks the New Zealand fixtures are a good chance to test themselves in the 20-over format.

“It’s an important series for us because it will give us a brief on where we stand as a team,” Aayan said.

“The T20 World Cup is happening in June next year. Before that we need to [qualify via the tournament] in Nepal.

“We will try win two out of the three games. We are a new team, in a new format so hopefully this will help us go forward.”

Updated: August 16, 2023, 5:10 AM