Former U19 cricketer Mohammed Riyan looks to restart UAE career during coronavirus shutdown

Opener hopes to make it to senior team, which will also improve his chances of playing club cricket in England as a professional

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The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted training schedules and preparation of athletes worldwide.

However, a handful have turned adversity into opportunity. Mohammed Riyan, UAE's former U19 international who was preparing for the new English cricket season, is one of them.

The diminutive opener joined the Cardiff Metropolitan University last year on a cricket scholarship to pursue a degree in sports management as well as representing the university team and Cowbridge Cricket Club in the Wales Premier Division 2.

Those plans are to be rescheduled after the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced cricket will not resume until May 30, and this date may be extended if there is no improvement in the ongoing crisis.

Riyan, 21 and born to Indian parents in the UAE, is back in Abu Dhabi following the closure of universities in the UK.

Looking at the brighter side, Riyan believes the break has given him an opportunity to re-organise his life. And one of his key objectives is to win a place in the UAE senior national team.

One of the reasons for his new mission is that under the ECB laws, in order to play as a professional for a club in the UK you must have played a minimum of five international matches for a national team.

"After playing for the UAE U19 my next goal had always been to play for the UAE seniors," Riyan told The National.

“But it didn’t pan out that way and also I lost focus. Not that I did anything bad but I just got a bit laid-back and took things for granted. I lost my way a bit.”

Riyan is aware the Emirates Cricket Board are looking for fresh names after losing a majority of their senior players following last year's corruption scandal.

“I think I have a realistic chance if I work hard and perform in whatever tournaments I get to play,” he said.

Riyan has been included in the Pro Bash side Abu Dhabi Stars alongside Yodhin Punja, his former Cambridge High School (Abu Dhabi), Zayed Cricket Academy, UAE U19 and now Cowbridge CC teammate.

I think I have a realistic chance if I work hard and perform in whatever tournaments I get to play

“To play in the Pro Bash is a great opportunity,” he said. “I’m very excited to get a chance to play with some national team players like Rohan Mustafa, Mohammed Usman and Yodhin.”

The Pro Bash is the first domestic franchise tournament in Abu Dhabi, which has also been temporarily suspended.

Riyan showed great promise from the age of 10 and he was the first school cricketer to get a scholarship in Ardingly College in the ninth grade in 2012.

He re-joined The Cambridge High School, Abu Dhabi, two years later and represented the UAE U19s in 2014 and 2015.

Riyan returned to the UK to join Seaford College in 2016 and in the following year, he moved to Anglia Ruskin University on a cricket scholarship and represented the MCCU Cambridge.

“I haven’t lost any of my cricketing skills but I still need to perform in the opportunities I get,” he said.

“My dad [Zaheer] has been supportive of my cricket. I had a long chat with him and he put in perspective the things I did wrong and did right. I want to balance my cricket and academics.

“I realised how important academics are for my future. I now feel I’m back on track with both.”

While in Abu Dhabi, Riyan wants to immerse himself in training and playing cricket as much as possible.

“Since I got back to Abu Dhabi [two weeks ago] I have started to work on my fitness,” he said.

“Nowadays I do it indoors, running up and down the stairs in my seven-storey residential apartment, seven days a week.

“I do that for 30-35 minutes followed by a workout. Boxing is also a part of my fitness routine.

“Since I’m not doing anything else, I want to increase the time I spend on my fitness, perhaps three times a day.”