Rohan Mustafa says he cannot wait to play alongside his “all-time favourite” batsman, and a captain whose style he tries to imitate, when he joins up with Eoin Morgan’s Kerala Kings in the T10 Cricket League.
The UAE captain was the first player drafted for the new 10-over competition, at an event for domestically-based players that happened on Saturday.
The fact he was signed by the franchise representing Kerala means he will be able to trade notes with Morgan, the England limited-overs captain, who is the side’s star player.
“I used to copy his batting style,” Mustafa said of a fellow left-handed shot-maker.
“Now I hit the reverse-sweep very well, and I believe that is because of Eoin Morgan, because he plays it very well and I started copying him. I thought, ‘If he can do it, I should, too’.
“Because of Eoin Morgan’s aggressive captaincy, England have been coming up, and now they are one of the best ODI sides in the world right now.
“I see his aggression, and I like his captaincy. Now I will be with him, it is a very good chance for me to speak to him regarding these things and I can get ideas.”
Albeit in a different sphere of the international game, Mustafa has had a similarly transformative effect on UAE cricket since he took over the captaincy earlier this year to that which Morgan has had on England.
Morgan would no doubt approve of the UAE captain’s method of leadership, which is generally hyper-aggressive.
One memorable example was when Mustafa set a field of nine slip fielders at one point, when the UAE were in the ascendancy in a four-day match against Papua New Guinea.
He is keen to get tips from his new captain, and hopes the other UAE players involved in the competition, which will be played in Sharjah from December 14 to 17, do the same.
“The thing we can get from this tournament ahead of World Cricket League and other tournaments, is the experience of playing with good cricketers like Eoin Morgan,” Mustafa said.
“He is my all-time favourite batsman. I can get ideas for captaincy from him. The other players can do the same in their teams.
“[Mohammed] Naveed can get death bowling ideas from the players in his team, because they will try to bowl yorkers and slower-ball bouncers.
“We will be playing alongside a lot of stars who have played World Cups. That will be good for us players who are representing UAE now.”
Nine regular national team players, plus domestic seam-bowler Shareef Asadullah, were recruited to five of the teams in the TCL.
Despite the competition for places, their prospects of playing time are good, because of a playing condition for the tournament. Each team must field at least one of their two UAE players in the starting XI.
When the 27 names listed in the UAE players draft were pared down, there were a number of players who were conspicuous by their absence.
Ahmed Raza, the left-arm spinner and standout fielder, was left on the shelf. The last time the UAE played in this sort of company, at the Asia Cup T20 last year, Raza went through three matches in a row without conceding a boundary.
Mohammed Usman, a left-handed batsman who has established himself as a vital component in the UAE’s middle-order, also missed out, as did Qadeer Ahmed, the pace-bowler who recently trained with Pakistan’s national team.
“Qadeer, Usman and Ahmed Raza, all three deserved to be in the teams, because they have been performing very well,” Mustafa said.
UAE kick off busy winter season on Thursday
The UAE will begin their preparations for a busy winter when they play five 50-over matches against Zimbabwe A in Dubai, starting on Thursday.
The national team have matches against Nepal, in the World Cricket League, and Afghanistan, in the Intercontinental Cup, in Abu Dhabi in the coming weeks.
The final phase of their bid to qualify for the 2019 World Cup will take place in Namibia in February. Succeed there, and they will advance to the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe the following month.
“As our men’s team begin what is a very intensive playing calendar, it is imperative they continue to be exposed to various competitive preparation matches,” Waleed Bukhatir, the UAE chief selector, said.
“We are delighted to host the Zimbabwe A side for this series, and believe it will be a thrilling encounter, and provide our players with a solid platform for their continued growth.”