NELSON: Cricket has always been a sport that has rewarded patience, even in the souped-up version of the one-day game, but few players at the World Cup have had to wait longer for their big break than the evergreen UAE batsman Khurram Khan.
At 43, he and UAE captain Muhammad Tauqir are the oldest players in the tournament.
Unlike most of the teams at the World Cup, the UAE side is made up of amateur players, who fit their cricket training and matches around their full-time jobs. Opportunities are few and far between and only the most dedicated survive.
Khurram, who works as a flight purser for Emirates Airlines, has often flirted with the idea of retiring but the lure of playing at the World Cup proved irresistible.
There were no guarantees the UAE would qualify this time. The only previous time the UAE had appeared at the World Cup was in 1996, but Khurram rolled the dice and pushed on.
Patience pays off
Born in Pakistan, he moved to UAE in 1999 and made his ODI debut for his adopted country in 2004. By the start of 2014, he had only played four fully recognised ODI matches; such are the limited chances for countries with Associate status.
Unperturbed, he pressed on and his perseverance finally paid off when UAE qualified for the 2015 World Cup, largely thanks to his contributions.
Khurram was the leading run-scorer at the World Cup qualifying tournament in New Zealand, piling up 581 runs at an average of 72.62. Then in November, he became the oldest player to score an ODI hundred, making an unbeaten 132 against Afghanistan, and moving to the top of a distinguished list of oldest centurions that includes Sanath Jayasuriya and Geoff Boycott.
Despite having captained UAE for the last decade, the Emirates Cricket Board wanted a locally-born player to skipper the side at the World Cup, and so they demoted Khurram to vice-captain and gave Tauqir the top job.
Unfazed, Khurram said he was just happy to have realised his lifelong dream by getting the chance to compete at cricket’s greatest spectacle. “I understand that. I am just happy to be here,” he told reporters when he arrived in Australia. “I am having the best time of my life. Cricketing-wise, if you see my performance the last couple of years, it is amazing and I am enjoying every moment of it.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2015.
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