Zahoor Khan, the UAE fast bowler, showed he is “as good as any international bowler” during his spell with Mumbai Indians at the 2020 IPL.
That is the view of Robin Singh, who helped oversee Mumbai’s fifth IPL title as the side’s batting coach.
The former India international has been an ever-present feature of their coaching staff since the tournament's inception. This year, he has dovetailed that with the job of UAE coach, to which he was appointed in February.
When Mumbai’s pace bowling options for the 2020 IPL were depleted by the withdrawal of Lasith Malinga, then an injury to Nathan Coulter-Nile at the start of the campaign, Singh called Zahoor.
The 31-year-old pace-bowler immediately returned from visiting family in Pakistan, quarantined at the team hotel in Abu Dhabi, then spent two months as part of the Mumbai training squad.
Singh said he impressed, and believes Zahoor's experiences as part of arguably the greatest ever T20 side will benefit him in the future.
“If I talk about Zahoor, I think he is as good as any international bowler, honestly speaking,” Singh said.
“It is a little unfortunate he is in an Associate country, and we don’t get the opportunities.
“He has already played in the [Global T20 Canada] and the Abu Dhabi T10 league. He has done exceptionally well, and that is why we picked him.
“We don’t just pick anyone at MI who has not performed. They go through a good screening process.
“He has improved his fitness. He understands how it is to be professional, and we are very, very professional at MI. He has had a terrific experience.”
Zahoor was one of three UAE players to have an involvement in the IPL.
The spin bowling duo Ahmed Raza and Karthik Meiyappan each served similar roles at Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Mumbai Indians win IPL 2020
“[They] understand the professionalism behind it," Singh said.
"What is important for these guys is, if you want to make it big, you have to sacrifice.
“You cannot think on a mediocre level. There is no room for mediocrity in cricket if you want to make it big and you want to compete.
“This format exposes you the most. Whatever your skills are, if it is not displayed when it is warranted, you will be thoroughly exposed.
“It is not just about your cricket, it is about your mentality. To get to the next level, it is about how you think.
“You take away things from international cricketers. You see what they do, how they get there.”
Singh was speaking at the announcement of a new domestic T20 tournament, to be staged at the Dubai International Stadium in December.
The Dream 11 Emirates D20 will be played along similar lines to that of the D10, the 10-over competition which heralded the return of cricket after the coronavirus-enforced lockdown in July.
Six teams, drawn from the UAE’s leading players, will play 33 matches in the T20 format between December 6 and 24.
Mubashshir Usmani, the general secretary of the Emirates Cricket Board, said the competition is the next part of a long-term plan to play multi-day cricket in the country.
“The whole target is for us to set up a first-class cricket structure,” Usmani said.
“That is one step forward to being a full member. This is our vision, and we will do our best to achieve that.”
Singh said the D10 tournament earlier in the year expanded the pool of players in contention for the national team from “15 to 20” to around 50.
With the national team likely to return to competitive cricket in January, the coach is confident the game here is heading in the right direction.
“We want to ensure that this UAE team will be on the big stage soon,” Singh said.
“It is important to have a structure in place. We have already started doing that. Unfortunately, Covid came and a lot of things have been affected.
“In spite of that, with the facilities we have here, we were actually able to start training in June – as per ICC protocols. We were actually one of the first teams in the world who started cricket in June.”