You’ve played without a coach and also with one. What do you think a coach adds to a good cricketer?
I think coaches have a very big responsibility of improving the technical aspects of cricket as well as have a psychological effect on the players. Lots of players can’t handle pressure well and so if you have a good coach who’s positive and confident, the same mentality will be taken up by the players. That is what the coach’s role is.

Does the club and local cricket in the UAE prepare the players to deal with international cricket?
The biggest difference is playing in UAE and playing against an elite team in the ACC or ICC. When you are batting in UAE, everybody knows you and knows your style and how you play. Whereas in other competitions, people are always talking and trying to put you off your game by constantly saying things to you and it can get a bit hard. These kinds of things are now part of the game so you just have to learn how to handle it.

What made you put in all the hard work to play cricket?
I used to play with a soft tennis ball in my own backyard with cousins and after that I never played cricket with a hard ball until I was in university. I started playing proper cricket very, very late. I got success in my career very early for my club and that encouraged me a lot. I went to Lahore for a Super 6s tournament and we were an unknown, small club. There were 60 teams and we won that tournament and I was the man of the tournament. I was not a big hitter and so I just pushed and placed the ball and got runs. The PCB chairman Mr. Bukhari was distributing the prizes and he was very impressed and I got three of four job offers after that and this was also very encouraging for me. I played for the Tariq Cricket Club and it was basically the start of my career.

In your career or in the field does one thing lead to another naturally or do you have to plan?
It’s a bit of both. I’ve worked very hard and I always believe in myself as a cricketer. When I came to UAE, there were all cement wickets and I couldn’t hit the ball as hard as the others who would smack the ball all around the field. When they built the turf wickets all over I was very confident and I thought that now is going to be my time.

How will the UAE fill that gap in talent when you and national team players of your age retire at the same time?
The best thing is to keep producing youngsters and encourage them by given them a chance to play more. They will need some time to adjust and when they play with us they can improve and go on and take part for UAE.

Do you think ACC Trophy champions can go on to beat countries like Ireland, Scotland or Canada?
The thing is these teams play a lot more cricket. Like for the Irish players, they play in the UK in their domestic season which has Dutch players as well. Scottish players also play there. They are all playing county cricket and strong cricket and that is how they improve but in Asia the Test-playing nations should invite the smaller Asian cricketing nations to play a higher level of cricket. We can have tournaments where we play against their A teams. This will help us improve a lot. In a lot of cases, after the players confirm their place in the team, they have to pull out at the last minute because they are called back to work. Cricket also needs to be professionalised after which there will be a definite improvement in all countries.

Of the four wickets you took against Sri Lanka in the 2004 Asia Cup, which was the best delivery?
It was actually the match before, in the game against India. This was the day before the Sri Lanka match and I was bowling to Yuvraj. It was my tenth over and off the first five balls no runs were scored. The last ball he tried a huge shot and got bowled. That was a great feeling and it was a left-arm spinner against a left-handed batsman so to get him out was something.

Do you keep all your prizes and other cricketing memorabilia?
I try to; all the newspapers clippings and all that stuff. It’s taking up a lot of space in my house but I just can’t bring myself to throw it away.

UAE Cricket Profile

Filed April 28th, 2010