CP Rizwan keeps his eye in with throw-downs from wife as he aims to cement place in UAE team after lockdown

Batsman discusses life since coronavirus halted cricket and why he is more determined than ever to force his way into the national team plans

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - January 31, 2019: CP Rizwan of the UAE bats in the the match between the UAE and Nepal in an international T20 series. Thursday, January 31st, 2019 at ICC, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak/The National

Given the current restrictions on movement and social gatherings, CP Rizwan’s birthday celebrations will be muted when he turns 32 on Sunday.

In all likelihood, it will be similar to most other days in the recent past. Which is, a day at the office, followed by some throw-downs from his wife Fathima in the front room of their apartment in Sharjah.

Anything for a fix of cricket, for a player who had hoped to be in the process of nailing down his place in the UAE national team at the moment.

"It is a little difficult," Rizwan said of the coronavirus-enforced absence of cricket. "We are missing it obviously because it is such a big part of our routine.

“Playing domestic cricket, preparing with the UAE team, it is all a major miss. But we do still interact.

“And my wife helps me with throw-downs, so at least I can do something. It is only quite a light ball, so we haven’t broken anything yet.”

The couple married in 2015. Fathima knew little of cricket until then.

Within two years she had given up her job in teaching in order to support Rizwan’s cricket career, and now rarely misses a game.

“She didn’t follow cricket at all before we were married,” Rizwan said. “Since then, she had really got into it, started coming to matches, and now she gives me advice. She tells me I shouldn’t be throwing my wicket away.

“She has been to so many domestic matches and stayed late in the night, watching me play. Now she’s started enjoying the game.”

Rizwan debuted for the national team at the start of 2019, having been a prolific run-scorer in domestic cricket for some time previous to that.

He has been in and out of the side in the time since, and he says he has been frustrated at failing to make the sort of scores that would cement his place in the XI.

“I felt really happy that all the toil in domestic cricket, and all the hard work that nobody was seeing – in the night, after work, running on the beach – was being rewarded,” he said of being selected for UAE.

“I felt really blessed. But I’m not satisfied. I want to do well for UAE, and win matches for them. I’ve been getting starts, but I’m still awaiting a big knock. Inshallah it will come.”

Rizwan might have been part of the same Kerala Ranji Trophy squad as Sanju Samson back in his native India, but he has a deep affinity with UAE, too.

His father has lived in the country for 35 years. Rizwan was brought to live in Sharjah when he was two, having been born in India, while his two younger sisters were both born in the emirate.

He left to pursue engineering studies in Kochi, but returned in 2014, after landing a job with the Bukhatir Group.

“When I was still studying in India, I used to come here for every vacation,” Rizwan said.

“When Ahmed Raza [now the UAE captain] was young and new to the national team, I remember I used to go from my home to the Sharjah Stadium to see UAE practicing.

“I would give throw-downs for Ahmed Raza. We still talk about that. They are good memories, and now we are teammates.

“Now, after all this time, he is still leading from the front, in terms of fitness standards and everything. All the youngsters look up to him.”

His day job as an electrical engineer for Eastern International, in the construction industry, means he has not been confined to his home like many other people in recent weeks.

“Even during the lockdown period I have been working, and I have to focus on my cricket after that,” he said. “It hasn’t been a worry. To be frank, our building has 32 floors and only our office is working, so it feels like we are in isolation, too.

“Since everyone is still working in construction we have no complaints. In a way, it is good. The government has this policy and we are happy to adhere to it.”

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