His job with Emirates has taken Khurram Khan to Melbourne more than a dozen times, but there is one thing the UAE vice-captain hasn’t done when in the capital of Victoria. Despite strong temptation, he has never set foot at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
All that is going to change today as the UAE take on hosts Australia in a warm-up match ahead of the World Cup. The 43-year-old Khan is the oldest player in the tournament, which begin on February 14.
“It’s a huge moment for me," he said.
“For my work commitments, I used to come to Melbourne quite a lot. I used to stay across the road here and I’ve seen the MCG many times. But I’ve never walked into the stadium because I’ve always wanted to play here. I wanted to get in there as a cricketer.
“It will be the first time I will be walking into the stadium. Thank God, tomorrow my dream will be fulfilled.”
Khan admits the whole team are looking forward to the experience of taking on the No.1 ODI team in the world, and a good performance against Australia, who will have Michael Clarke making a return to the side, would be the perfect psychological boost ahead of their opening match on February 19 against Zimbabwe in Nelson.
“This is a wonderful way to start our campaign. We have worked really hard on our game and to start the tournament playing against the best team in the world… I think there is no better way for us to start than this.”
Khan himself has been in fantastic form with the bat, exemplified by a superb 66 against Central Districts Selections XI last week during another warm-up match in New Zealand.
Khan scored 334 runs at 83.50 with a strike rate of 85.86 in six ODIs last year, and his unbeaten 132 against Afghanistan in December not only made him the first-ever player from UAE to score a century in ODIs, but also the oldest ODI centurion ever.
“I think the last couple of years have been the best in my life since I have been playing cricket,” added Khan.
“I am having the best time of my life, to be honest.”
India finally celebrated a first win on their marathon Australia tour yesterday with a resounding 153-run victory over outclassed Afghanistan in a World Cup warm-up.
The defending World Cup champions piled up 364-5 in their 50 overs at the Adelaide Oval with record-breaking batsman Rohit Sharma making 150 with 12 fours and seven sixes.
Afghanistan batted their full quota of overs but managed just 211 for eight.
India had a poor start as they lost opener Shikhar Dhawan (4) and vice-captain Virat Kohli (5) cheaply by the fourth over. However, Sharma teamed up with left-handed batsman Suresh Raina (75) as the two stitched together a 158-run third-wicket partnership.
After Raina was dismissed, with India’s score at 174 in the 29th over, Sharma partnered Ajinkya Rahane, who scored an unbeaten 88.
Sharma added 95 runs with Rahane before his superb knock came to an end in the 40th over. But by that time, India had enough momentum and Rahane went after the Afghan bowlers in the death overs to power India to a big total.
Afghanistan captain Mohammed Nabi tried out eight bowlers of which four took a wicket each.
The chase proved to be a bit too difficult for Afghanistan. Though they did show enough resolve to cross the 200-run mark but were never in with a chance of pulling off an upset.
Nawroz Mangal top-scored with 60, the only half-century of the Afghanistan innings. India pacer Mohit Sharma and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja picked up two wickets apiece.
“I’m not a big fan of practice games, but a bit more time in the middle does help. Overall it has been quite good,” said India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
When asked about the bowling combination to be used at the main event, Dhoni said: “We’ll have to wait and watch, depending on conditions and the kind of wickets offered. I wanted Ravindra Jadeja and Ashwin to bowl their 10 overs, but I just wanted to use five bowlers in this game, and I needed Suresh Raina.”
Afghanistan captain Nabi admitted his bowlers couldn’t build on the solid foundation given them by the opening pair.
“The bowlers couldn’t put ball in the right place, but India are a champion team and their batting is quite long,” said Nabi.
“We started well when we batted but then the ball began to skid and we struggled. We played out the 50 overs, that was a plus point.”
England fast-bowler Stuart Broad is aware of his side's recent One-Day International woes, but is optimistic about their chances heading into their ICC Cricket World Cup opener against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday.