'I listen to what my dad says first': Meet the son of Mohammed Nabi hoping to follow in the Afghanistan and IPL star's footsteps

Sharjah academy coach predicting a bright future for Hassan Khan

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As Hassan Khan crunches another shot with the sort of power that sends bowlers diving for cover rather than attempt to stop the ball, he looks every bit a man amongst boys.

It is not the only reason the 16-year-old batter stands out among his peers in the net area at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.

There is also the red helmet he wears, with the Afghanistan Cricket Board crest on the front, plus the Karachi Kings training top. It is not the standard issue training gear of the other Sharjah Cricket Academy inductees.

If the broad-shouldered power-hitter passes a striking resemblance to Mohammed Nabi, the pioneering great of Afghan cricket and IPL star, there is a reason. He is his son, and the evidence suggests he is a chip off the old block.

Hassan had his first crack at men’s cricket during Ramadan. Playing for the Bukhatir XI, one of the leading sides in UAE domestic cricket, he hit 71 not out off 30 balls, an innings that included seven sixes.

For Sharjah veterans, it might have felt like a case of history repeating itself. When Afghanistan’s refugees-turned-cricketers first started establishing themselves in the international game, the UAE's oldest cricket venue became their home ground in exile from their strife-torn homeland.

Nabi, who was a central cog in that trailblazing side, would regularly be spotted sending sixes over the stands and into the road. It was stuff like that that appealed to his son.

“My first memories of cricket are of watching my dad playing on the TV,” Hassan said.

“It makes me feel proud, seeing him and knowing what he has done in cricket, and knowing that my father is a very well-known person in international circles.

“I don’t feel pressure because of it. I want to follow in his footsteps and play for Afghanistan.”

Kitbag of Hassan Khan, the son of Afghanistan/IPL star Mohammed Nabi, during the training at Sharjah Cricket Academy in Sharjah on May 10,2021. Pawan Singh / The National. Story by Paul
Kitbag of Hassan Khan. Pawan Singh / The National

Hassan was born in Pakistan. Since the start of this year, the family have lived in Ajman. The teenager joined Sharjah academy, and his dad might well use it as a training base when he returns to cricket after Eid, too.

“Cricket has helped me settle in,” Hassan said, while acknowledging he does feel homesick for Afghanistan at times.

“There are three other Afghan boys in the academy as well. They all speak my language, Pashto, which has helped.”

Unbeknown to Hassan, he changes in the same spot in the training area that his dad used to when the Afghan national team first started coming to Sharjah.

Back then, Nabi used to be highly protective of his cricket equipment. It was understandable, given that that team used to struggle to get hold of cricket gear, often relying on handouts from richer cricket nations.

Nabi's status could hardly be further removed from those days now. He has just returned to Ajman from India after the Covid-enforced suspension of the IPL, where he has played a number of seasons for Sunrisers Hyderabad.

His son has the spoils to show for it, with a choice of bats from a huge kit-bag that bears the legend “Nabi 7” on it.

It is not just kit he has inherited from his dad, but wisdom, too.

“I listen to what my dad says first,” he said of the coaching he gets.

“If another coach gives me some advice, I always verify it with him. I share the advice with him and if he says it is a good thing to do, that’s what I’ll do.”

Left to Right- Coach Kashif Daud and Hassan Khan, the son of Afghanistan/IPL star Mohammed Nabi, during the training at Sharjah Cricket Academy in Sharjah on May 10,2021. Pawan Singh / The National. Story by Paul
Kashif Daud. Pawan Singh / The National

Luckily, he has some shrewd coaches on hand in Sharjah, too. Chief among them is Kashif Daud, the coach who debuted for the UAE national team as an allrounder earlier this year.

“I think he is highly talented,” Daud said of Hassan.

“He is blessed with a naturally strong physique. He is a natural athlete with good agility when he is fielding. He is quick on his feet and it is the same with his batting.

“I feel like he has a great future ahead of him, if he remains focused. I wish him good luck, and pray that the bright future is coming for him.”

Daud acknowledged the young Afghan is under added pressure as the son of a star, but he reckons he can handle it.

“Everyone wants to see what he can do, just because he is Nabi’s son, but he also has his own spark,” Daud said.

“He is an inspiration for the other kids. If the star, Nabi’s son, can put in all the effort he does, then why shouldn’t everyone else? He is following in his father’s footsteps, and inspiring everyone else.”