Mohammed Ali Mirza, 16, ready to take on older boys in Under 19 World Cup qualifier
DUBAI // When Mohammed Ali Mirza makes his debut in a UAE shirt, at the Under 19 World Cup qualifier later this month, he will be forgiven for feeling apprehensive.
As part of the tour party to Malaysia, he will be on just his third overseas cricket trip of any sort. And, age 16, he will be playing with and against boys two years and older than himself.
It is likely to seem like child’s play, though. Mirza, a middle-order batsman from Dubai, has been playing A Division men’s cricket since he was 12.
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Three years ago, he held a catch to dismiss Umar Akmal, the Pakistan international batsman who was here playing in the Bukhatir League in Sharjah.
So the idea of playing up an age grade or two hardly fills him with dread, even if he does say he will be respecting the opposition at the tournament in Kuala Lumpur.
“It is amazing,” Mirza, who was born in Pakistan but has been brought up in Dubai since he was four, said of his call up.
“It is going to be a good experience going to Malaysia and I’m looking forward to playing. Hopefully I can score some runs there.
“Playing in this age group is far harder than I am used to. It is not easy at all compared to U16. The bowling is quicker.
“There is more swing, so facing the older bowlers is difficult. But the more you play, the more manageable it seems.”
Mirza is one of four players in the 16-man squad who are part of the same academy, coached by the former UAE bowler Shahzad Altaf.
Altaf, who played for UAE at the 1996 World Cup, has been coaching Mirza for seven years, and he expects him to thrive.
“He was very strong, even aged nine and a half,” Altaf said. “I remember he was so strong at that age, I was worried he might hurt the other boys because his throw was so strong.
“I’m very pleased for him because, after all the hard work he has put in, he is in the UAE team.”
Mirza has seen one of his colleagues in the U19 squad, the captain Yodhin Punja, graduate to the senior UAE side already. He is hopeful of following in Punja’s footsteps in the future.
“If you perform at this level, there is a path to the UAE squad,” Mirza said.
“If you score runs and take wickets for UAE U19 team, you will get recognition from the senior squad. The coaches will have seen you play, which is not the same for the players coming from abroad.”
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Published: September 2, 2016 04:00 AM