Masood Gurbaz hopes to follow brother Rahmanullah and become a star for Afghanistan

Younger sibling is a scholar at Sharjah Cricket Academy and is eyeing a career in international and franchise cricket

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As like-for-like replacements go, Dubai Capitals almost had an exact match ready and waiting when Rahmanullah Gurbaz departed for national duty last week.

It was typical of the transitory nature of the DP World International League T20 that they lost their wicketkeeper right at the business end of the competition.

Gurbaz had to head to Sri Lanka for Afghanistan’s limited-overs series instead, leaving the Capitals with some big gloves to fill.

They already had a fast-scoring opening batter and serviceable gloveman ready to fill the breach, in the form of Tom Banton from England.

They need not have looked anywhere near that far, though. And, as well as the flight ticket, they could have saved the kit suppliers a job, too. Masood Gurbaz would have happily helped cover for his older brother.

The 19-year-old, who is three years his brother’s junior, is a wicketkeeper-batter of great promise. The brothers are now residents of Sharjah. Masood has a full scholarship to train at the Sharjah Cricket Academy, and he is hopeful it will help him follow in Rahmanullah’s footsteps.

“Playing at this academy has been a very good opportunity for us and I am grateful to have got this sponsorship and to get advice from these coaches,” Masood said.

“I love cricket and it is my hope to play internationally. My brother is a good player, he supports me, and I am happy to follow after him.”

With Rahmanullah heading off to Sri Lanka, his younger brother was invited to train with the Capitals last week. It did not lead to a call up to the side, but he was happy to be noticed.

He has two heroes in cricket. Babar Azam, the Pakistan stylist, for his dreamy cover drives. And Rahmanullah Gurbaz, for obvious reasons.

The older sibling has been a star for Afghanistan since he made a ton on his one-day international debut against Ireland in Abu Dhabi in 2021.

In October, Rahmanullah made half-centuries in the World Cup upsets against England and Pakistan in India. Masood says days like that filled him with pride, and he is aiming to do similar himself one day.

“Seeing him make a hundred in his debut match and do so well for our country was inspiring,” Masood said.

“He made a century on debut and I spoke to him about how happy he was. Inshallah that can be me one day.

“My hope and dream is that one day I will open the batting with Rahmanullah for Afghanistan. I’m working as hard as I can to make that happen.”

If the duo do play for Afghanistan together one day, then Sharjah could rightly feel a part share in their success. Masood is a member of their academy and his older sibling has a strong bond with the emirate, too.

He has regularly played for Sharjah in domestic cricket, and more specifically Bukhatir XI, the side who bear the name of the family who have driven the rise of the sport in the emirate.

Abdul Rahman Bukhatir was the founder of Sharjah Cricket Stadium, and his sons, Khalaf and Waleed, have continued the family legacy.

Khalaf is the chief executive of Sharjah Cricket, and Rahmanullah credits him with welcoming him in like family.

“I have played most of my international cricket here and also whenever I have got the chance I have played local club cricket, too,” Rahmanullah said.

“Most of the time that has been for Sharjah. It is all thanks to Khalaf, who is a close friend of mine and we treat each other like brothers. I always love playing for him.”

The UAE has long been a home away from home for Afghan cricket. When the national team first started making its advance in international cricket, Sharjah played host to their home games rent free.

Abu Dhabi has staged Test and limited-overs cricket on behalf of the Afghans, and will do so again later this month with a series scheduled against Ireland.

Many of the players also reside in the country, with the likes of Mohammed Nabi in Ajman and Rashid Khan in Dubai.

“Most of the players are living here now and Sharjah is a home ground for us,” Rahmanullah said.

“They have always made the facilities available for us. We are very happy they have done that for us. The Bukhatir family are unbelievable people.”

Updated: February 13, 2024, 3:35 AM