Omid Rahman has 'huge ambitions' as he aims to become first Afghan to play cricket for UAE

Fast bowler eyes history as national team face Scotland in Dubai

UAE fast bowler Omid Rahman will be hoping to make his senior team debut soon. Photo: Asian Cricket Council
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Omid Rahman will become the first Afghan national to represent the UAE if he makes his debut against Scotland on Saturday.

The national team have made a sorry start to their Cricket World Cup League 2 campaign, with three defeats so far.

They have one match left of their opening tri-series, against the holders at Dubai International Stadium this weekend.

In a bid to try to solve long-standing issues, particularly with the batting, all but one of the squad have been tried so far in the series.

Rahman is the one player yet to feature. If he does get his chance on Saturday, it will cap a rapid ascent in the sport for a young fast bowler who had played no formal cricket before moving to Sharjah in 2017.

Originally from Khost in Afghanistan, Rahman settled in the Emirates when his father set up a transport business in Sharjah.

He had played tape-ball cricket on an informal basis back at home. Once he arrived in the UAE, he enlisted at Sharjah Cricket Academy, and his development has been swift in the time since.

“It was only when I moved here that I started taking an interest in cricket,” Rahman said.

“I started playing club cricket in Sharjah, and that is where my journey began. Once my father’s business got settled, he decided to make our family home here.”

Rahman’s promotion to the senior UAE squad for the first time coincides with his country of origin playing a series here.

While UAE are playing in Dubai, Afghanistan are set for a limited-overs bilateral series against Ireland in Sharjah, starting on Thursday.

Rahman says he was inspired to be a fast bowler by watching Hamid Hassan, who was one of the pioneering refugee-turned-cricketers for Afghanistan.

“I know those guys but didn’t play any sort of formal cricket with them,” he said of growing up in Khost.

“Hamid Hassan was my hero. I liked his style and tried to follow him. He inspired me to bowl fast.

“I had a passion for the game, but there was a lot of hard work that went into getting me here today. In Sharjah I was always training hard.

“I performed there in club cricket, and the selectors liked what I had done and picked me.”

Niaz-ul-Islam started coaching Rahman at Sharjah Cricket Academy three years ago, having previously worked in Afghanistan. Immediately, he liked what he saw from the raw young recruit.

An assiduous trainer and keen learner, Rahman impressed Islam. Aside from their conventional training at nets in Sharjah, the duo would also head out to the Hajar Mountains and climb as part of the fitness programme.

“He is Afghan and those guys are generally strong and hard-working,” Islam said.

“That is what I found with Omid, too. He is a very good listener, and works so hard – exactly as any coach wants.

“If you call him to come and train early in the morning, he is available. If it is late at night, he will still come for a session. You never hear ‘no’ from him.”

Rahman’s potential was revealed during the Under-19 Asia Cup, when the UAE beat Sri Lanka and Pakistan on their way to the final.

He also bowled an outstanding spell – ultimately for little reward – as the national team lost to Bangladesh in the final of that competition.

“When he was first selected for the UAE U19 team, he would call me at night and I would share plans with him for how to get wickets and contain batters,” Islam said.

“He performed in the U19 Asia Cup, and after that we made another plan for him to make it to the senior national team.

“He had played three years for the Sharjah council team and every year he was the top bowler.

"The UAE selectors knew him well, so when he performed in the U19, mentally we were already prepared for him to be called to the senior team.

“He hasn’t had his chance yet, but I am sure that when he does, he will perform there as well.”

Even if Rahman’s chance does not arrive this weekend, he is not impatient for success. His aspirations are long-term, he says.

“I am very happy to have joined the senior squad and I really didn’t think I would make it so soon,” Rahman said.

“It has been a fantastic start, and I still have huge ambitions. I want to do well for UAE cricket and I want to get into the ILT20 and make a name for myself.”

Updated: March 08, 2024, 6:00 AM