Batsman Rameez Shahzad 'dreams' of making UAE return

Batsman now works part-time in a car showroom, as well as a cricket coach

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - October 30, 2019: UAE's Rameez Shahzad bats during the game between the UAE and Scotland in the World Cup Qualifier in the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. Wednesday the 30th of October 2019. Sports City, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Rameez Shahzad is craving a return to UAE national duty, saying: “It is always going to be my team”.

The 33-year-old is one of the most successful batsmen in the history of the game here.

He averages over 53 in one-day internationals, and is the only player with two ODI centuries for the UAE.

However, he has been on the outside looking in in the recent past. He has not played an ODI since 2018, and is now without an Emirates Cricket Board central contract.

The loss of his pro deal at the end of last year has had notable effects. He now works part-time in a car showroom, as well as a cricket coach, and has to fit his own training around those commitments.

He has also moved to an apartment near to the cricket grounds in Ajman, from one a similar distance from the UAE’s training base at the ICC Academy in Dubai Sports City.

Despite his altered circumstances, he says he remains passionate about a return to playing for the national team.

He says he watched the ODI series against Ireland in January intently, even wearing his grey UAE shirt while doing so.

“Of course I still want to be involved – it is always going to be my team,” Rameez said.

“I haven’t been training with the UAE team, but I have been working with academies and doing training in my own time. Hopefully I can make a comeback soon.”

When he might get the chance to do so is unclear. The UAE are not scheduled to return to competitive action until August, with a World Cup League Two series against Unites States and Scotland.

However, his appetite to compete for a place is a major boon for a side whose batting resources are increasingly enviable.

I still want to be involved – it is always going to be my team

CP Rizwan showed his merit with a sparkling century when they beat Ireland in January.

Mohammed Wasim will surely debut as soon as he becomes eligible in the coming months, having consolidated the reputation he built in Abu Dhabi T10 with more excellence in the Bukhatir League.

There are also a variety of young batsmen, such as Alishan Sharafu, Aryan Lakra and Vriitya Aravind, who have been spoken about in glowing terms by UAE coach Robin Singh.

“Since Robin has come in he has been making us play lots of 50-over matches, and that is a good thing,” Rameez said.

“That is not something we did before. If the current team can play together a lot, then they will be able to understand each other’s mentalities a lot better.

“You need to adapt, and learn how to switch your game between the formats, too.”

Rameez caught the eye himself in the Bukhatir League, playing a role in guiding the team to Friday’s final, which they eventually lost to InterGlobe Marine.

Despite missing the early pool matches because of any ankle injury, he was straight up to speed with an innings of 71 on his return to action.

He followed that with a 64-ball century in the quarter final – an innings which he said was unintentionally fast.

“I actually wasn’t planning to play an aggressive knock like that,” Rameez said. “I just wanted to rotate the strike, and get back into the 50-over format mentality.

“I just kept looking for singles, then when I got past 50, the overs were finishing and I needed to play aggressive shots.

“That’s what 50-over cricket is about. It is not about just hitting fours and sixes. It is important to focus on singles, because once you go a level higher, it is not going to be the same.

“The wickets are not going to be the same, the bowlers are not going to be the same, so you can’t rely only on boundaries. You need to know how to rotate strike.”

Rameez believes he has some ideas to offer if he does earn a recall to the national team.

“The mentality is just to try to hit boundaries,” he said. “Even when we do that and get 300, imagine the number of dot balls there are in that.

“Look at the UAE side’s matches against Ireland, and see how many dot balls they faced.

"We need to look to stop doing that, try to rotate every ball, and take the boundaries when they come as well.”