UAE batsman Rameez Shahzad not giving up on international career despite plans to move abroad

The 32-year-old has been conspicuous by his absence over recent months, as the new-look team have strung together a series of fine results

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - October 14, 2019: The UAE's Rameez Shahzad bats during the ICC Mens T20 World cup qualifier warm up game between the UAE and Scotland. Monday the 14th of October 2019. International Cricket Stadium, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Rameez Shahzad remains hopeful he has a future with UAE despite the fact he intends to move away from the country.

The 32-year-old batsman has been conspicuous by his absence over recent months, as the new-look national team have strung together a series of fine results.

He has been unavailable for duty because of personal reasons that have led him to spend much of his time out of the country.

The same issue has meant he is planning to start a new life for himself and his family, potentially in either Poland or Canada.

Although that would prove a long commute to represent the national team, Rameez hopes he can remain in the team’s plans going forward.

“In cricket, I do have goals to achieve but at the same time I am thinking about my personal life as well,” Rameez said. “It is high time for me to settle down and think about my family. I have to be prepared for that, and I am 32 now. I am not getting any younger.

“But I am definitely going to try and come back, once everything is settled. It is just very difficult at the moment.”

Over the past year, the Emirates Cricket Board have bucked a long-standing policy of selecting only home based players.

In that time, both Darius D’Silva and Jonathan Figy, who are university students in Australia and UK respectively, have debuted for the national team.

The new selection policy has given Rameez optimism that his international career need not be over.

“When I saw that they were taking players from overseas that are good enough to play for them, I thought it was a possibility,” Rameez said.

“I have extended family in Toronto. I want to do something in sports, get a job, and stay in touch with local cricket at the same time.

“They [the ECB] already know my situation, but I haven’t been in touch with anyone about it recently.”

Rameez ranks among the national team’s finest ever batsmen, even though the course of his international career has rarely run smooth.

He was first called up to the senior national team while still a schoolboy back in 2005. When he debuted that year, he completed the first – and so far only – father and son pairing to have represented UAE.

His father, Shahzad Altaf, was a seam-bowler in the 1996 World Cup team, and has since provided a steady production line of talented cricketers via his coaching academy.

Rameez was lost to the national team for a decade, though, after moving to the UK to study, and becoming ineligible for selection for UAE as per the ICC’s former eligibility criteria.

Since he returned to the side in 2016, he has done his best to make up for lost time. He is the only UAE player to have two one-day international centuries to his name.

He also has the highest batting average of any UAE player to have played a significant number of ODIs, and by some margin, too.

He wants to extend his record in the future, but acknowledges it is an uncertain one – not least because of the ongoing uncertainty related to the coronavirus.

Cricket, as with almost all sport in the country, is at a standstill. Organised cricket, for all age-groups, is currently ceased in the country until at least March 31.

“Resuming activities will be considered only following any update from higher governing authorities,” the ECB wrote in a statement this week.

The travel restrictions, too, have disrupted Rameez’s own future plans.

“The plan is to move, but right now, with the virus, I don’t know how things are going to pan out,” he said.

“Long-term, the idea is to settle [abroad], but I want to come back. I will definitely be available from overseas, and hope to come back and play.

“I have been travelling a lot in the past few months, with the eventual plan to travel to Canada, but with the virus, everything has fallen apart.”