It seems like an age ago when Rohan Mustafa was known within the UAE team as their “man for the crisis”.
Back then, he regularly salvaged the side’s batting from his position in the middle order – only to subsequently reinvent himself as a top-order dasher.
Much water has passed under the bridge since then. Nowadays, UAE cricket really does know the meaning of the word crisis; no longer does it just refer to the odd collapse when batting.
After all, the national team had travelled to the Cricket World Cup League Two in Oman without seven senior players.
Four are officially banned because of a corruption scandal. Two others are missing, presumed to be associated with the same issue.
Another, Rameez Shahzad, has been absent for a month because of personal issues that will take some while to resolve. And even before their first match, against the tri-series hosts Oman, another leading light, Zahoor Khan, had to withdraw because of the sudden death of his mother.
By the end of their epic, eight-run win over Namibia at Al Amerat on Monday – UAE made 222-9 and restricted Namibia to 214-8 – the national team had their only remaining 11 players left out on the field.
Mohammed Usman had to sit out the fielding effort due to concussion incurred while batting. Karthik Meiyappan, after a hero’s turn with the ball, succumbed to cramps.
Zawar Farid rushed on to field for the last eight balls.
If anyone else had gone down, coach Dougie Brown – 50 years young and 13 years out of the top-flight game – would have had to swap his singlet for a proper shirt and help man the battlements himself.
And yet, somehow, the team found a way to win.
And that despite grassing five catches of varying difficulty, botching a run out chance, and having to defend a total that had not seemed exactly flash at the halfway stage.
It was the sort of match that Mustafa has a penchant for dragging the team through via force of personality.
During the batting effort, he had been furious when Usman had given his wicket away when he was batting like a prince, on 37. UAE were 136-7 shortly after.
Mustafa (59 not out) took them to 222-9 off their 50 overs, with valuable alliances down the order with Meiyappan (12) and captain Ahmed Raza (19).
That scarcely seemed enough, and yet they managed to defend it. Predictably, Mustafa was to the fore in that effort, too.
He finished with figures of 1-52 with the ball, included letting just six singles go from the penultimate over, which had started with Namibia needing 18 to win. It was left to Junaid Siddique to confirm the eight-run win.
“To be honest, when I was batting with Ahmed, I wasn’t even thinking about winning the match,” Mustafa said.
“I just wanted to stay at the crease, because it doesn’t look good if we get out in 40 or 43 overs.”
The decision to move Mustafa back down the order does not sit well with the opener. However, the merit in the decision was clear to see in the way he salvaged the innings against Namibia.
“I have spoken to Ahmed and the coach regarding that, saying I want to open because I want to play freely,” Mustafa said.
“But we have had a lot of crises in the team. Then you need your senior players to do well, and No 6 is quite a pressurised position. I play for the team, and wins are what matter to me.
“My name used to be ‘man for the crisis’, when Aaqib Javed was the coach, back when I was No 7 and used to bat in situations like this.”
While Mustafa was the headline act, Meiyappan also played a large part in swinging the game in UAE’s favour, as he took 4-37.
“At that point of the game, I was just thinking about containing, not going for wickets,” said Meiyappan, of the two wickets in two overs which spun the game towards his side.
“I think those two wickets were a game changer, but towards the end Rohan bowled excellently.”