New UAE recruit Syed Haider Shah ready to make a name for himself after emotional call-up

Ajman-born batter belatedly follows his age-group peers into international cricket for tour to Oman

UAE's #10 Syed Muhammad Haider Shah run. Courtesy ICC
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During a week in which the prestige of playing for the national cricket team suffered a knock, the side’s newest recruit was moved to tears when he received his first senior call-up.

Usman Khan has opted to forego the chance to represent the UAE after being selected for Pakistan this week.

The Dubai resident had spent nearly four years in the country, and was seemingly bound for a call-up as soon as he became eligible for selection next year.

However, he has instead been named in Pakistan’s squad for a T20 series against New Zealand later this month.

Usman's decision to opt for his country of birth has led to him being banned from UAE domestic competition for the next five years.

While that issue has been unfolding, the national team have been preparing for the ACC Premier Cup. They will start their campaign in that 10-team competition when they face Kuwait in Muscat on Friday.

The winners of the competition will earn a place in next year's Asia Cup – where Usman’s Pakistan will lie in wait.

Among the UAE’s squad in Oman will be first-time tourist Syed Haider Shah. Fair to say, there is little doubt about what playing for the country means to him.

The 22-year-old wicketkeeper batter represented the country in Under-19 cricket with distinction, and has had to wait patiently for his chance.

He found out he had promoted to the senior set up for the first time for the series in Muscat following a practice match against Hong Kong in Dubai this week.

“There were rumours going around that I had a very good chance, so I was nervous throughout this past week about when the squad was coming out,” Shah said.

“Eventually, when the game was over against Hong Kong, the boys in the squad came up and congratulated me. They were telling me I was in the squad.

“I’m not going to lie, it has been such a long time and there were a few tears that came into my eyes when I was given my shirt and kit. It feels amazing.”

The Ajman-born batter was an age-group peer of a number of players who have gone onto higher honours in the sport.

Vriitya Aravind, Aryan Lakra, Ali Naseer, Alishan Sharafu and Karthik Meiyappan all graduated to senior international cricket some time back.

Kai Smith, another of the players who played for the UAE at the U19 World Cup in South Africa in 2020, has gone onto professional cricket in the UK county circuit.

Shah had to watch while his mates advanced quickly, but he says he never doubted that his own chance would follow.

“It wasn’t frustrating,” he said. “I saw them doing well and I wanted to get in there and be as good as them.

“Mashallah they have made a name for themselves, established themselves and I wanted to be like those boys, or even better. That was my motivation.

“It’s felt like a long time coming but I have always believed in myself and trusted in the hard work I have been doing. Eventually I knew it was going to happen.”

One memorable feature of Shah’s time in age-group cricket was the voluble presence of his father beyond the boundary.

Taqi Shah is his son’s biggest cheerleader. Back when he was coming through the ranks, he logged every match Shah Jr played on video.

Now his son has told his dad to relax and watch the games on the livestream instead, but he says he owes him a huge debt of gratitude.

“He is 70 now so I have told him to lay off it and stay at home, as all the games are shown live,” Shah said.

“Ever since the U19 days he has been my support system, helping me out and supporting me unconditionally. Everything that I am today and everything that I will be in the future is for him and because of him.

“He has always said, ‘I don’t want you to work anywhere, I don’t want you to focus on anything else – just cricket. It is your passion, it is your dream. You are going to chase it.’”

Taqi Shah was the first person he told the news of his selection this week, and he was predictably thrilled.

“It is a great blessing from Allah to us that my son has finally made it to the squad,” Taqi Shah said.

In addition to his father, Shah also expressed his gratitude to his clubmates at Seven Districts in Ajman, particularly their owner and captain, Haider Omar.

“Ever since I joined the team they have been telling me that eventually my time would come,” he said.

“When the time came yesterday he messaged me. We spoke and he was saying, ‘I am so proud of you. I told you your time would come. This has been a long time coming.’

“Haider is doing a lot for cricket all over the UAE. I am very thankful to him and the ECB [Emirates Cricket Board] for giving me this chance.

“With the club I play for, the way we prepare ourselves it feels almost like international training. The senior boys have been telling me to go out there and play the game as though I was playing in an international game already.

“We try to replicate the same game we are going to play on the bigger stage when we are playing at domestic level.”

Updated: April 11, 2024, 2:59 AM