ABU DHABI // Nearly every day for the past two weeks, Rohan Mustafa has been shuttling between four emirates to play in four Twenty20 tournaments.
The UAE captain is on club duty, representing One Stop Tourism (OST) during the month of Ramadan, while keeping one eye on an upcoming 50-overs series in the Netherlands.
Mustafa has played a key role in keeping OST in the hunt for trophies in all four events, having helped them reach the semi-finals in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ajman, and the final in Dubai.
He scored 52 and took 4-24 from four overs to lead his side to the last four in the Abu Dhabi Cricket Council Ramadan T20 Cup at Zayed Cricket Stadium on Sunday, a game that – as most games across the emirates have – started at 11.45pm and ended at 3.30am.
He was in action the following night in Sharjah, too, hitting a brisk 30 and taking 3-19 in OST’s 189-run victory over Mir.
But while he enjoys turning up for a club he has had a long association with, representing the UAE is the all-rounder’s primary job, and he has to train with his national team for their Netherlands trip next month.
But a jam-packed schedule is not a problem for the Pakistan-born cricketer.
“Cricket being my job, I have all the time in the world to train with the national team,” said Mustafa, a devout Muslim who manages to fast from sunrise to sunset during the Holy month.
“I spend a session in the nets batting in the morning and playing games in the night [which] is a real plus in my preparations for the tour.”
The UAE will not play any T20 games against the Netherlands but Mustafa, who was appointed captain in January, says the various night tournaments serve as good match practice.
“Most of the players are involved in the Ramadan Cup, playing for different clubs,” he said.
“They are performing well too. It gives them the confidence, whenever they do well with either bat or ball.
“We, as players, can take a lot of positives from these games.”
The squad will leave for Birmingham, England, on June 29 to play three practice games before heading to the Netherlands for the three-match series.
The 50-overs format is on the wane in the Emirates after seven leading team owners and businesses shut down their cricket activities.
“We had only one 50-over-a-side tournament [Bukhatir League],” Mustafa said. “We can only hope the longer version of the limited-overs format will return.
“We don’t need to have so many teams but the cream of the players in the country need to play in top-flight domestic competitions to improve their game.”
The UAE have had success in the 50-over format in recent times, winning the Tri-Nation Series against Hong Kong and Scotland in January before sweeping a two-match series away against Ireland in March.
The UAE also defeated Papua New Guinea across all three formats, winning their first four-day Intercontinental Cup match in four years, and made their highest ODI and T20 international totals in March and April.
They followed it up with a 2-1 win over Oman in a 50-overs series in May.
“The team has done well and hopefully we can continue this trend on our tour,” Mustafa said.
“At one time, we depended on a few players to perform. But now that’s not the case. Everyone in the team have started to chip in with useful contributions. It has helped us as a team.”
When asked if the full-time contract system is working well, Mustafa said: “It certainly does. The players don’t have to worry about their day jobs after hours of training in the evenings.”
He also welcomed the Emirates Cricket Association's decision to make Dougie Brown the permanent coach in June following a successful three-month trial period.
“There is stability when you are working with a permanent coach,” he said. “We have had success under him.
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport