When the first ODI between Pakistan and Australia was under way at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Tuesday night, one man watched with a lot of anxiety from a corner of the ground. Not that he’s new to this situation since has been there at all the 206 ODI’s that have been played in this historical ground.

But it’s a feeling that keeps coming back whenever the Guinness World Records stadium hosts big matches. “I just keep praying that everything goes off well every time,” curator Mohammad Jamil said.

Jamil has seen it all since the first ODI way back in 1984 was played. He has been the key person responsible in putting things together when it came to preparing the 22-yard strip. “It’s a great feeling when you roll back to those memorable days. I learnt the job from Mohammad Basheer who works as a curator in Pakistan and from there it’s been an amazing journey,” he recalled noting that he came to the UAE at a very young age looking for a job to support his family back home.

But it’s never been an easy day for this 52-year-old. With extreme heat conditions and the stadium situated closer to the sea maintaining it on a consistent basis was mandatory. Jamil’s day began as early as 6am and continued till late in the evening.

“It’s very difficult to maintain the grass. Unlike in other countries India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka here it does not rain and the extreme heat adds to it. So we had to use a lot of fertilizer.

“There are over 200 domestic matches played each year so we have to keep the wicket lively each time. I’m happy the hard work paid off every time and people got to witness some wonderful matches,” added Jamil, who has completed only basic education.

Considering his tireless efforts, the Sharjah Cricket Council has honoured him on three occasions. “I got three gold medals. The first one when we finished 100 ODIs, next 150 and then 200.”

He was also sent to Morocco when they set up a new ground to assist the local curators there. “I went there and helped them and made them understand on the preparations of a good wicket. It was a good experience,” he added.

When asked about any memorable matches he recalled quickly: “The first one obviously is the last ball six Javed Miandad hit Chetan Sharma in the Asia Cup final in 1986 and next is 143 from India’s Sachin Tendulkar against Australia in 1998.”

His only dream now is to see a big tournament like the World Cup being held here. “Other than Sharjah we also have world class stadiums in Dubai and Abu Dhabi so I’m sure we are prepared to host big tournaments. We only hope it comes some day,” he said.

Sharjah Cricket Council secretary Mazhar Khan, showering praises on Jamil’s commitment to work, said: “Jamil is a pioneer in curatorship in this part of the world. He has done a yeoman service to Sharjah stadium and contributed immensely to the growth and development of the game by his expertise in preparing excellent wickets both for internatonal and domestic matches.

“Being part of the 206 games is itself a testimony to his commitment and dedication while maintaining this wonderful ground. He is the unsung hero of Sharjah cricket,” he added.