Exclusive: From Ranji heartbreak to international glory, Rizwan has come a long way

Chundangapoyil Rizwan won the man-of-the-match award for his century against Ireland. (Supplied photo)
Chundangapoyil Rizwan won the man-of-the-match award for his century against Ireland. (Supplied photo)

Dubai - Now a genuine match-winner with the bat, Rizwan hopes to take the UAE to the 2023 World Cup


Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Tue 12 Jan 2021, 10:35 AM

Last updated: Tue 12 Jan 2021, 10:47 AM

When the UAE were gasping for breath at 51 for three chasing 270 against Ireland in the first match of the four-game ODI series last Friday, no one had the audacity to predict an Irish capitulation.

After all, the UAE were taking their first steps back into international cricket since the Covid-19 outbreak and they were up against a Test-playing nation that knew how to win a cricket battle amid a pandemic, having emphatically chased down 329 against world champions England in their last one-day game back in August.

But in Chundangapoyil Rizwan, the UAE had a man with an unflinching spirit. And it was Rizwan’s stunning hundred (109) and his stirring fourth-wicket partnership with Muhammad Usman (102) that scripted arguably the greatest UAE victory in their cricket history.

The six-wicket win may have surprised many, but those who know the Tellicherry-born Rizwan were not surprised by his heroics in a nerve-racking encounter against a team of battle-hardened veterans.

“Rizwan is a fighter. He’s mentally very strong,” CTK Mashood, Director of Dubai's Tellicherry Academy where Rizwan trains, told Khaleej Times.

It was the failure to break into the playing eleven of the Kerala Ranji Trophy team that made Rizwan mentally strong. He did take a break from the game, though, and completed his engineering degree before taking a central government job in Kerala.

But the lure of playing Ranji Trophy for Kerala brought him back to cricket again. It was then that CTK Mashood invited him to the UAE which could offer him a chance to play international cricket.

“I was almost on the verge of getting a place in the Kerala Ranji squad. It was during that time that CTK Mashood asked me to come over to the UAE because here I would get a chance to play international cricket. That was the reason I decided to come to the UAE. Looking back now, I believe it was not a bad decision,” Rizwan told Khaleej Times.

But Rizwan had to wait for his tryst with international cricket. Having arrived in these shores in 2014, the right-handed batsman needed to complete four years in the UAE to be able eligible to play for the national team. And finally, he made his debut against Nepal in 2019.

“By God’s grace, I was able to realise my dream of playing international cricket. And now this ODI hundred against a Test-playing country is a dream come true. We won the match from a very difficult position which is so satisfying. Hopefully, I can continue playing well and win more matches for the UAE,” he said before expressing his gratitude to CTK Mashood and Khalaf Bukhatir, CEO of Sharjah Cricket Stadium, for their constant support.

Now a genuine match-winner with the bat, Rizwan hopes to take the UAE to the 2023 World Cup.

“Our head coach Robin Singh Sir truly believes that we have the ability to play the (2023) World Cup. He treats each session with great importance. He has also helped us technically to become better batsmen. I believe with the confidence that we have gained from beating Ireland, we can go a long away,” he smiled.

Finally, Rizwan revealed the secret to his match-winning partnership with Usman.

“We both have a good rapport, having shared match-winning partnerships previously,” he said.

“We played a practice game in a T20 against Afghanistan who are a Test-playing nation now. We chased down a target of 150 odd runs in the 17th over.

“We were 10 for three. From that position, we both scored half centuries and won the match.

“So when we were together in the match against Ireland, we had the confidence. We knew if we played till 45th over, we had the firepower to finish off the game. And that’s exactly what happened.”

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