Having celebrated his 37th birthday this month, UAE veteran Amjad Javed says he hasn’t even thought about retiring and insists he can carry on playing until 2019.
All-rounder Javed has become one of the most experienced members of the national team since making his UAE debut in April 2006, playing more than 160 matches.
Yet at 37, the Dubai-born cricketer is proving age is just a number. While an unbeaten 47 remains his top-score this year, Javed has made an impact with the ball, taking 14 scalps in 13 matches.
Five of those came against the Netherlands as the UAE won the three-match 50-over series 2-1 earlier this month.
And the former skipper says if he keeps on producing performances like that, it’ll be hard for him to call it quits anytime soon.
“With this sort of performance, like how I’ve been performing, then it’s really good for me,” said Javed. “In my point of view, it’s a very good performance and if I continue bowling that way, I think I will have to delay my retirement.
“To be very honest, I’m really confident on my fitness levels and the Emirates Cricket Board is backing me and I think I should be playing until 2019 to help the team retain the ODI status and hopefully play in the next World Cup.”
He added: “I’m not thinking about retirement yet and if you see my performances also against Papua New Guinea, I took some wickets in the matches while I also claimed key wickets in the domestic game. I’ll carry on until two years from now and after that if there is a suitable coaching job for me, I’ll take that. I just want to continue playing cricket and help the UAE grow.”
With a part-time deal, Javed is one of 11 contracted players on the Emirates Cricket Board’s books. He still juggles his time as a professional cricketer between his day-time job at Emirates Airlines and while it can have an effect especially after flying long distances, Javed believes his game has improved immensely since the last year.
“The central contracts have really helped me and really pushed me to work hard,” he said. “I enjoy working with the guys most days and Peter Kelly (UAE’s strength and conditioning coach) is taking care of me by monitoring my fitness and form.
“We have changed our mentality in that we are now professional cricketers and you can see that with the Netherlands tour because of the way we performed.”
Four months after suffering a serious injury during his IPL trial, Yodhin Punja has opened up on his setback as he aims to step up his fitness and win a spot in next month’s UAE Under-19 squad for their Asia Cup qualifiers.
The 18-year-old fast-bowler, who studies at Claremont Senior School in England on a cricket scholarship, has yet to play a single match after picking up an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury following a delivery to Chris Gayle during a trial with Royal Challengers Bangalore in India in March.
He later learnt he would be out for up to five months which not only ruled him out of the entire English season but also saw his IPL dream over.
“I managed to get myself a IPL trial for RCB after one of their coaches was impressed with my CV,” said Punja.
“I warmed up for the trial in Bangalore and was going to bowl to Chris Gayle. The pitch was really hard and on my first delivery, my landing foot mislanded and tore my ACL on my left leg.”
Punja then flew to UAE three days later to undergo surgery in Dubai. Although disappointed, he refused to dwell on the setback and instead vowed to come back strongly.
“Initially, it was quite a shock because you don’t get such opportunities every day,” he said.
“Mentally, I’ve always been quite strong and as a fast-bowler, it’s not a secret that it’s a very injury-prone thing to do. As well as the quality, you have to be a little creative to be a fast-bowler. It’s something that I just wanted to bounce back from quickly.”
The injury also saw him miss out on playing in the Sussex Second XI’s having initially caught the eye of their coaches.
Yet, his eagerness to put his disappointment behind him saw his rehabilitation in England go smoothly before answering a call from the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) whether he would consider joining the training camp for the UAE’s U-19 Asia Cup qualifiers in October.
“By the time I left England four weeks ago, I was batting and sort of bowling but not fully. I was doing my normal activities really easily,” explains Punja. “I told Andy (Russell, ECB national development manager), of my situation and they have been really committed.
“The physiotherapies – UAE’s Asif Ijaz and Sunil Jaymurthy at NMC Abu Dhabi, have been of huge importance in my recovery and I’m now 80-per-cent fit.”
While he remains hopeful of making the final cut, Punja insists it would be an honour to represent the UAE again. “The ECB’s support has been great and hopefully I can make the squad and qualify for the Asia Cup.”
Having been named Man of the Series in the triumphant Netherlands tour last week, UAE batsman Muhammad Usman insists there’s “plenty of more runs to come” from him.
The 31-year-old was the UAE’s top-scorer with tallies of 57no, 42no and 32 as the tourists won the three-match 50-over series 2-1 in Amsterdam – their first on European soil.
Usman had stiff competition for the top personal accolade with skipper Rohan Mustafa (five wickets and 100 runs) and Amjad Javed (five wickets) all impressing while medium pacer Logan van Beek (10 scalps) pressed his case.
Now having seen his feats recognised, the Lahore-born cricketer is adamant this is just the start and confident he can build on this personal achievement in the future.
“Yes, of course for me this is just beginning,” he said. “I still think that I have to do more for the UAE national cricket so that we can win more games in the future. This is just the beginning and I’m sure there will be plenty more to come from me as we go on.
“For me, it was a great feeling for me, my team and my captain (Rohan Mustafa) to have been part of the squad that won a series for the first time in Europe.
“To have won the Man of the Series award is even more special.”
Like the majority of the 14-man squad that travelled to the Dutch capital, Usman was facing the conditions for the first time.
No match practice prior to the series did not impact the UAE as they continued their resurgence under head coach Dougie Brown, who has now won 10 of his 13 matches in charge since coming on board as interim in February.
Prior to their tour Brown played down the favourites tags despite achieving series wins over Papua New Guinea and Oman in March and April, with the former England and Scotland international challenging his troops to adapt to unfamiliar conditions quickly.
Usman believes the team had no such problem settling in and lauded Brown and the coaching staff for the efforts put in at their indoor training sessions at the ICC Academy in Dubai.
“It was a very good series and in fact I would like to say thank you to the coaching staff as they knew what type of conditions we would be facing in Netherlands,” said Usman, who made his UAE debut in December 2015 against the England Lions.
“So we worked in pretty much the same conditions in the nets at the ICC Academy for around one month and I think that was the key for me scoring big runs.”
He added: “The first game where I scored an unbeaten 58 was very important. The conditions were perfect for bowlers as it was seaming and swinging around and was not easy to play the shots. I knew if I spent time at the crease, a big score would eventually come.”