Home Sports T20 World Cup: Usman Khan’s UAE Peers Experience Mixed Emotions After His Switch to Pakistan

T20 World Cup: Usman Khan’s UAE Peers Experience Mixed Emotions After His Switch to Pakistan

The batter’s decision to represent his country of birth has elicited a mixed response from those he left behind in the Emirates.

by Soofiya

The T20 World Cup has always been a stage where dreams are realized, legends are born, and cricketing stories are etched into the annals of the sport. One such story is that of Usman Khan, a talented cricketer who recently switched allegiance from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Pakistan. This move has stirred a mix of emotions among his former teammates and the cricketing fraternity in the UAE, encapsulating the bittersweet nature of professional sports.

A Rising Star in the UAE

Usman Khan’s journey in cricket began in the UAE, where his talent and hard work saw him rise through the ranks to become one of the nation’s most promising players. His explosive batting and reliable bowling made him a crucial asset to the UAE team, and his performances often brought pride to a nation eager to make its mark on the international cricket scene. His switch to Pakistan, however, has left his UAE peers with mixed feelings.

Bittersweet Emotions

For many of Usman’s former teammates, his departure is a double-edged sword. On one hand, there is immense pride and happiness for Usman as he steps onto a bigger stage with Pakistan, a cricketing powerhouse with a rich history and fervent fan base. His success is seen as a testament to the quality of cricket in the UAE and a validation of the hard work and dedication that the players and coaches in the region have invested in nurturing talent.

Mohammed Naveed, a senior player for the UAE, expressed this sentiment perfectly: “We are extremely proud of Usman. He has always been a dedicated player, and seeing him play for Pakistan is a moment of great joy for us. It shows that our cricketing infrastructure can produce players capable of competing at the highest level.”

The Sense of Loss

On the flip side, there is an undeniable sense of loss. Usman’s departure leaves a void in the UAE team, which is still developing and striving to establish itself on the world stage. His absence means that the team loses not just a talented player, but also a role model for younger cricketers who looked up to him.

Ahmed Raza, the captain of the UAE cricket team, expressed his mixed emotions, saying, “It’s tough to see Usman go. He was an integral part of our squad, both on and off the field. While we are happy for his success, we will miss his contributions and leadership. It’s a bittersweet moment for us.”

Usman Khan’s Perspective

For Usman Khan, the decision to switch to Pakistan was not taken lightly. It represents both a professional opportunity and a personal journey. Pakistan,

a cricketing giant, offers him a platform to showcase his talents on a much larger scale, with the potential for greater recognition and success. However, Usman has been candid about his gratitude towards the UAE and the role it played in his development as a cricketer.

In a recent interview, Usman shared his thoughts: “Playing for the UAE has been an incredible journey. The support from my teammates, coaches, and fans has been immense. Moving to Pakistan is a dream come true, but it also means leaving behind a part of my cricketing family. I am forever grateful to the UAE for giving me the foundation to reach this point.”

The Impact on UAE Cricket

Usman Khan’s move to Pakistan, while a loss for the UAE, could also serve as a catalyst for the growth of cricket in the region. His success can inspire young cricketers in the UAE to pursue their dreams with even greater determination, knowing that international opportunities can arise from their performances.

UAE cricket officials are optimistic about the future. The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) has reiterated its commitment to developing local talent and enhancing the country’s cricketing infrastructure. The ECB is focusing on grassroots programs, talent scouting, and international exposure to ensure that more players like Usman Khan emerge from the UAE.

Looking Ahead

As Usman Khan dons the green jersey of Pakistan in the T20 World Cup, his journey will be closely followed by his former teammates, coaches, and fans in the UAE. They will be cheering for him, albeit with a tinge of melancholy, knowing that their loss is Pakistan’s gain.

Usman’s story is a poignant reminder of the fluid nature of sports, where borders blur, and talent transcends geographical boundaries. It highlights the interconnectedness of the cricketing world and the shared dreams that bind players and fans alike.

Social media appearances can be deceiving, but judging by his recent activity, Usman Khan is exactly where he’s always wanted to be.

This week, Usman shared a tweet showing himself addressing the Pakistan squad in Dallas, where they will begin their T20 World Cup campaign against the USA on Thursday. Some of cricket’s biggest stars were hanging on his every word. Gary Kirsten, the new coach, was trying to understand it all. Babar Azam was attempting to film it on his phone, amidst fits of laughter. Shaheen Afridi stood by, holding his sunglasses.

Usman appeared completely at ease among these greats. Remarkably, it’s been just over two months since he was still contemplating his future with the UAE team.

The 29-year-old batter has yet to return to the shared accommodation in Hor Al Anz, near the end of the Dubai International Airport runway, where he technically still resides. His rise from aspiring UAE international to World Cup-bound with Pakistan began with an extraordinary sequence of innings, including back-to-back centuries in the Pakistan Super League (PSL).

His form made it impossible for Pakistan to overlook him any longer. He was invited to a training camp organized by the army in Abbottabad and was faced with a choice: represent his home nation Pakistan or his adopted home UAE.

Choosing Pakistan earned him a five-year ban from Emirates Cricket Board-sanctioned events. Most of his peers accepted it as the obvious choice, though some have mixed feelings.

“I feel sad because I invested so much in him for the UAE,” said Taher Hasan. “But I am happy for him because he is playing for a Test nation.”

It was Taher who first brought Usman to the UAE to play for his company team, Brothers Gas. Usman was following a path many players had taken before him, seeking a more financially secure future in the Emirates after falling through the gaps in Pakistan’s cricket system.

“I offered jobs to players who were disheartened elsewhere,” Taher said. “I told them to come, work with me, build their career, and we could play cricket as our passion. If they had good luck and performed well, I would support them however I could.”

Taher received some videos of Usman batting and thought he was worth the investment. In September 2019, he found a place for him at his company and provided an employment visa.

“He was so disheartened [in Pakistan] that he said, ‘Sir, I will do anything; I just need to survive,’” Taher recalled. “He landed in the morning, and we had a match in the evening. I met him for the first time at the ground. After our introduction, he said, ‘Sir, from today onwards I promise you your team will be the No. 1 team in UAE.’ And he proved it.”

Usman scored century after century in domestic cricket, making Brothers Gas one of the leading sides in the country. This caught the attention of UAE selectors, and the ECB provided him a retainer contract, even though he wouldn’t be eligible until 2025.

Then, his standout performances in the PSL changed everything.

“I feel sad,” said Taher, an Indian national. “I paid his salary for four years and gave him everything. What was my interest in him? He should play for my club, then for UAE. I never thought he would go for PSL and Pakistan. But that is destiny.

“I am happy for him but sad as well. Indians are crazy about their cricket. As much as I love Indian cricket, I am equally passionate about UAE cricket. It is my home, and I am so passionate about UAE cricket.

“But he is a player and he has to look for his own growth. Who would leave an opportunity to play for Pakistan?”

When Taher left Brothers Gas, the team folded, and Usman had to find alternative employment. He was taken on by Shahzad Altaf, a former seam bowler who played for the UAE at the 1996 World Cup and had a successful coaching career.

It was Altaf that Usman turned to when he got the call from Pakistan.

“He called me and asked what his best option was,” Altaf said. “I have nothing against UAE cricket, but I felt his future would be best with Pakistan.

“There’s always a risk you might get picked and then dropped and not get back. But you should take the risk. Even with the UAE team, there are no guarantees. If you are a good cricketer, you have to take the risk.”

Usman’s former teammates in the UAE understand his decision.

“You have to be practical in life,” said Chirag Suri, a former UAE batter who played with Usman in T10 cricket. “In the UAE, we don’t know what the future for cricket will be because we are dependent on ODI status. If you are in a full member country, let alone Pakistan, you can’t say no.”

Suri says Usman was sincere in his desire to play for the UAE.

“He was saying, ‘Chirag-bhai, how should I handle this situation,’ and said he wanted to represent UAE and play international cricket,” Suri said of their time playing together.

“He is a very hard-working guy. He would go to Goltay Academy [Altaf’s academy], coach the kids, then play himself. He was always trying to help others.

“His personality is very good. When you see good people do well, you feel happy. That is why he is successful.

“He was very inquisitive, happy to learn and happy to share. He didn’t have to do that. He didn’t have to ask us anything because he was a good player himself, but he wanted to learn. That is why he has gone ahead.

“His biggest attribute is that he reads the game very well. He reads the bowler and knows what the guy is going to do before he does it. That is what the best players in the world do.”

In conclusion, Usman Khan’s switch to Pakistan is a chapter filled with both joy and sorrow for his UAE peers. It underscores the complexities of professional sports, where success often comes with its share of sacrifices. As Usman embarks on this new journey, he carries with him the hopes and best wishes of an entire nation, proving that true talent knows no borders.

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