Four UAE international cricketers have received their visas with three of them flying out to Canada on Wednesday evening.
UAE captain Rohan Mustafa, Ahmed Raza and Mohammad Naveed travelled to Toronto late on Wednesday for the Global T20 tournament after their visit visa was finally issued earlier that afternoon. They will be joined by Shaiman Anwar who will fly from Dubai on Thursday.
Given it’s a 14-hour flight from the UAE, Mustafa and Naveed, who are part of Toronto Nationals, are expected to miss their team’s opener against Vancouver Knights on Thursday evening (midnight UAE time).
The UAE quartet are likely to feature on Saturday when Nationals take on an Edmonton Royals, whose squad includes Raza and Anwar.
The inaugural competition has attracted some of the biggest names in the game including Chris Gayle, Darren Sammy, Shahid Afridi as well as disgraced stars Steve Smith and David Warner.
But the inaugural event will also feature four UAE internationals – the most that the country have had in an overseas T20 competition. After their visas were finally processed, Ahmed Raza, Rohan Mustafa and Mohammad Naveed all departed for Canada on Wednesday with Shaiman Anwar set to travel on Thursday.
Here, we look at each of the four players ahead of the competition.
ROHAN MUSTAFA, TORONTO NATIONALS
The 29-year-old will be playing in his second T20 tournament outside the UAE this year with his first coming in Nepal back in April. In the low-profile tournament, he was crowned man of the series and considering the big impact he has had with the bat and ball in the last 18 months, his presence will certainly give Nationals’ coach Simmons a selection headache.
In more than 60 T20 games, he has scored over 600 runs with his highest score of 77. With the ball, he’s been equally impressive with 32 wickets in 40 matches.
MOHAMMAD NAVEED, TORONTO NATIONALS
The 31-year-old isn’t short of T20 experience. In his 22 internationals in the shortest format, the pacer was once ranked as the 10th best bowler in the world just less than a year ago. A bowler who delivers consistently, his record stands at 29 wickets and can also be useful down the batting order thanks to his aggressive approach.
So highly-rated that even World Twenty20-winning captain Darren Sammy posted an instagram post praising the UAE star after being impressed with his abilities during the Hong Kong T20 Blitz. The two have since been part of the Bengal Tigers at the T10 League and will be reunited again in Canada at Toronto Nationals.
AHMED RAZA, EDMONTON ROYALS
Having made his debut way back in 2006, Ahmed Raza has gone from strength to strength and has become one of the key players in the UAE national team. Amazingly, he is only 29 with plenty of years still ahead of him. He was overlooked for the T10 League where many UAE internationals featured but Raza has been consistent in the T20 domestic circuit while his international figures of 12 wickets in 21 T20Is is certainly impressive.
SHAIMAN ANWAR, EDMONTON ROYALS
Aged 39, even Shaiman Anwar thought his days of playing in a T20 league was over before the Global T20 Canada was launched. A veteran of the UAE team for more than a decade, Anwar certainly has a lot of pedigree in T20 cricket. Just last year, he stole the show by becoming the UAE’s first T20I centurion when he smashed 117 against Papua New Guinea while he has four half-centuries to his name. In 26 T20I, he has amassed 747 runs with an average of 31.12.
Rohan Mustafa accepts he will miss his team’s opening game of the Global T20 Canada tournament as he and three other UAE team-mates are yet to receive their visas.
Mustafa and Mohammad Naveed are both part of the Toronto Nationals who open the tournament against Vancouver Knights on Thursday afternoon in Ontario.
But Mustafa conceded their hopes of featuring in that game are next to zero as they failed to receive their visas by Tuesday afternoon. With a 14-hour flight from Dubai to Canada, even if they receive their visas on Wednesday they face a race against time to not only make the game but shrug off the jet lag to make the field.
“I think our chances of making that first game is difficult now,” said UAE captain Mustafa. “If we get the passport tomorrow (Wednesday), there will be a flight in the evening so we can take that. But we also have to see if there will be a seat on the flight. Still there is no news from the Embassy so we don’t know what’s going on.”
UAE’s Ahmed Raza and Shaiman Anwar are also waiting to know the status of their visa application. The duo are part of the Edmonton Royals’ team which includes Shahid Afridi and Chris Lynn with the team playing the Toronto Nationals on Saturday.
Mustafa is hopeful that all four players will be in Canada for that fixture.
“If we get the visa by Thursday we can reach the Saturday game,” he said. “But if we don’t then it will be difficult because it is Friday and Saturday and offices will be shut. We will have to wait until Sunday. It’s quite frustrating but what can we do.”