Hassan Khalid makes his mark in front of UAE coach Robin Singh

Teenager produces match-winning display with the ball in the Emirates D10

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , Nov 13  – 2019 :- Hassan Khalid of  Qalandars T10 cricket team bowling during the training session held at Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. ( Pawan Singh / The National )  For Sports. Story by Paul
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Seeing as he has one more year of A-levels still to go at school, Hassan Khalid has plenty of time on his side in cricket.

That said the left-arm wrist-spinner from Ajman seems to be in a rush to be noticed. He was drafted to the Qalandars squad for the Abu Dhabi T10 last year aged just 16.

Now he has caught the eye of the people that matter in UAE cricket, too, after a matchwinning display with the ball in the Emirates D10.

Playing for Fujairah Pacific Ventures against an ECB Blues team that is essentially the national team in a different guise, he took four wickets to turn the game for his side.

His timing was perfect. Wednesday evening’s matches were the first ones Robin Singh, the UAE coach, has managed to get to in person after being stuck in India since lockdown.

He even presented Khalid with his man of the match award after Fujairah’s win.

“Obviously, if I ever played for UAE, that would be a plus point,” Khalid said.

“Playing against the ECB Blues, the biggest team, with all the international players, and the captain [Ahmed Raza] of the men’s team, that was a big thing.

“That is why I really celebrated when I got wickets. In the earlier matches, I didn’t celebrate as much.

"But this one was from the heart, they were real celebrations, with anger and passion.”

Judged by the way he celebrated his wickets, impartial observers might have thought the 17-year-old spinner had a point to prove.

Despite being scouted by the PSL franchise Qalandars at a widely-attended talented hunt in Lahore, he had slipped through the net in his home country.

He did not feature in the selectors thoughts for the UAE Under 19 side that played at the World Cup earlier this year, but he is not remotely bitter.

“I feel like it is all about getting lucky for these kind of things,” Khalid said.

“There are a lot of great players in the UAE who haven’t gotten the chance to play in such big tournaments.

“Being overlooked for the U19s I feel was better for me. Now I have had more chance to improve, and now I can prove myself for my performances.”

When Singh took over as the UAE’s new coach earlier this year, he said he would not be afraid to give youth its chance.

Now, having had a chance to assess the quality of players – having taken the national team to a tournament in Oman in February, and via the online livestream of the D10 – he says there is plenty of talent around.

“It has given us a good focus for what players are available going forward for the national team,” Singh said of the D10.

“It is surprisingly very good. I have seen a lot of good talent in the team that won the tournament in Oman.

“Barring that, I have seen at least 15 new boys here who I am pretty happy about, and a lot of young guys, which is even more encouraging.

“There are some under-19 boys doing exceptionally well, and that’s a great thing.”

The statistics support Singh’s point. Before Thursday’s matches, the second highest run-getter in the tournament is 18-year-old Vriitya Aravind, while Khalid is second in the leading wicket-taker list.

For Khalid, that is reward for the hard work he put in during lockdown, in a room at home that was specially converted to allow him to maintain his cricket training.

“When I first grabbed the ball [after lockdown], it felt like it had been three or four years since I’d last played,” he said.

“My body was stiff, but I also felt like my body was stronger because of the work I had done.

“I felt like I could get more revs on the ball and more pace on the ball. I was bowling quicker, and with more consistency and accuracy as well. There were a lot of plus points to it.”