UAE great sporting moments - No 14: Khurram Khan, the country's greatest ever player, leads team back to Cricket World Cup

The all-rounder scored 581 runs, including four half centuries and one ton, at an average of 72.86 as Emirates won Qualifier in New Zealand

The UAE cricket team celebrate their ICC World Cup qualification on Thursday. Courtesy ICC
The UAE cricket team celebrate their ICC World Cup qualification on Thursday. Courtesy ICC
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Every day over three weeks, The National looks back at the 21 greatest moments in UAE sports history.

By the time UAE went to the Cricket World Cup Qualifier in 2014, their captain was already 13 years into his international career.

No doubt he was nearer the end of his playing days than the start, so it probably felt like a last shot at the big show.

Then bear in mind that Khurram Khan had only started out playing for the UAE when he was 29.

Aged 42 when the side set off for their final qualifier in New Zealand, he must have felt as though that one last chance had been and gone a number of times over already.

Khurram was, and remains, UAE’s finest ever player. To have gone through his whole illustrious career beyond the view of cricket's mainstream, and without appearing at a World Cup, would have been unjust.

So when he arrived in Rangiora in New Zealand’s South Island, he was intent on personally righting all those wrongs.

What followed was basically Khurram single-handedly guiding the national team to qualification for their second World Cup.

Other players did do things of note. Shaiman Anwar hit a ton in the first match against Nepal. Amjad Ali top scored with 91 in the next against Canada.

Then it was all about Khurram. The Emirates airline employee top scored in each of the next five matches, until a place in the final – and a place on the plane back to New Zealand and Australia for the main event the following year - was secured.

It brought him more runs than anyone else in the tournament, with a haul of 581 runs, including four half centuries and one ton, at an average of 72.86.

After the decisive win over Namibia, when qualification was secured, he was overcome by emotion.

“I cannot describe how this feels,” Khurram said.

“For me, I have been part of the team since 2001 and finally, finally doing it, with the help of my team, it is an awesome feeling. I cannot describe my state of mind at the moment.

“For someone like me, who knew it was the last chance, the last shot I could get at this, I am over the moon.”

Khurram’s heroics in navigating his side to achievement were nothing new. He had been doing it for years.

It might have earned them all a trip to the World Cup, but the man himself suffered an unfair indignity before they got there.

On the eve of the competition, he was replaced as captain by Mohammed Tauqir, who had not played in the qualifier, and came out of retirement to play.

Whether UAE would have fared better at the competition with Khurram in charge, who knows?

They lost all six of their matches in Australia and New Zealand, with Khurram showing only glimpses of his true self with the bat, and bowling just seven overs in the tournament.

Not long after, he had retired from the game completely.

It felt like a bitter way for a great of the game to go out, but the way he dragged his team to the World Cup should never be forgotten.

Published: July 7, 2020 09:37 AM

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