Exclusive: Memories of his late mother make Zahoor emotional after UAE's T20 World Cup qualification

Young wicketkeeper-batsman Vriitya Aravind wants to end the qualifying tournament on a high by beating Ireland in Thursday's final



Zahoor Khan offers prayers after UAE beat Nepal on Tuesday to qualify for the T20 World Cup. (Supplied photo)
Zahoor Khan offers prayers after UAE beat Nepal on Tuesday to qualify for the T20 World Cup. (Supplied photo)
by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Wed 23 Feb 2022, 7:14 PM

Last updated: Wed 23 Feb 2022, 7:33 PM

Two years ago, medium-pacer Zahoor Khan was in the middle of an international campaign in Oman with the UAE national team when a phone call from Pakistan, his native country, turned his life upside down.

Farhad Bibi, Zahoor’s mother and his biggest fan, passed away and he had to take the next flight to Pakistan.

“Now every time, I play in Oman, that phone call keeps coming back to my mind. I still see the messages she sent me that time. She used to bless me before every match, urging me to never stop believing in my ability,” Zahoor told Khaleej Times on Wednesday.

Now, his reverse swing, subtle changes of pace and the deceptive slow bouncer that troubled even the Mumbai Indians batsmen in net sessions during the 2020 Indian Premier League, played their part in UAE’s glorious T20 World Cup qualifying campaign in Oman.

Zahoor Khan says the team's death overs bowling has improved remarkably. (Supplied photo)
Zahoor Khan says the team's death overs bowling has improved remarkably. (Supplied photo)

Zahoor may not have picked a bucketful of wickets, but his resilience in the death overs helped UAE earn a spot at the 2022 T20 World Cup (October 16-November 13) in Australia.

“It’s my mother’s blessings. You know helping UAE (earn T20 World Cup qualification) in Oman means so much to me. You know before the start of the tournament, I spoke to my father and his encouraging words also gave me a great boost,” Zahoor told us from Muscat.

The 32-year-old bowler revealed he had been playing in the qualifying tournament despite suffering two injuries.

“I had elbow and ankle injuries, still I wanted to help the team because it’s such an honour to play for the UAE,” he said.

Zahoor also praised the team's unity. (ICC)
Zahoor also praised the team's unity. (ICC)

“Now we are going to play such a big event in Australia against Test-playing countries. Hopefully, we will be able to show that UAE have a good cricket team. We will work even harder now.”

Zahoor credited coach Robin Singh for the mental fortitude of the team which would take on Ireland in the final on Thursday.

“This is the result of the hard work the team has put in in the last two years after Robin Singh came on board as coach. He has made us mentally very strong. He has changed our approach completely,” he said.

“Also our captain Ahmed Raza deserves a lot of credit for supporting the bowlers in the death overs. So credit to the whole team, support staff and the Emirates Cricket Board.

“And I have to add that the unity in the team has been amazing. We all had the same goal, to qualify for the World Cup.”

While Zahoor has guided the team with his experience and skills, young wicketkeeper-batsman Vriitya Aravind has earned rave reviews for his incredible consistency with scores of 97 not out, 40, 84 not out and 46 in the team’s four matches.

“Helping the team qualify with my performance, it makes me feel good. It’s the result of all the hard work we have put in. You can see that in our performance,” Aravind told Khaleej Times.

The 20-year-old player is now prepared for one last effort in the final against Ireland on Thursday.

Young wicketkeeper-batsman Vriitya Aravind has been incredibly consistent with the bat. (ICC Twitter)
Young wicketkeeper-batsman Vriitya Aravind has been incredibly consistent with the bat. (ICC Twitter)

“We have beaten Ireland in the past four games. So, of course, we have got the upper hand,” he said.

“But we should not get complacent. It’s the final, a one-off game. Anything can happen, so we will try hard to win the tournament.”


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