Having arrived in the UAE from Pakistan in 2017, Muhammad Farooq was a data entrant for steel trading company Mideast Metals as recently as August, but is now rubbing shoulders with the likes of Chris Gayle and Liam Livingstone in the Abu Dhabi T10 with Team Abu Dhabi.
Farooq was empowered to pursue a professional cricketing career after domestic side Karwan Strikers handed him a full-time contract in September. They gave him the opportunity to fulfil a lifelong dream and he has seized that chance.
He has since been called up for a training camp with the UAE national team and was picked up by Team Abu Dhabi as one of two local players in the 17-man squad.
Initially not drafted for the tournament, it was Rohan Mustafa’s withdrawal due to UAE duties that presented Team Abu Dhabi with the chance to sign Farooq, and he has quickly impressed those around him.
Take head coach Paul Farbrace for example, who says the 29-year-old “belongs” in professional cricket.
“What we’ve seen from him over the past week of practice is that there is a real athlete there, he’s obviously a very fine bowler, brilliant in the field and you can see that he looks like he belongs in this environment,” said Farbrace, who led Sri Lanka to the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup trophy in 2014.
“He’s making the most of it and he’s learning, which is what it’s about for all of the players in this set-up — learning from the great players. I’ve always said that players don’t learn from coaches, players learn from players and coaches facilitate that so when you’ve got here the likes of Chris Gayle and someone like Muhammad Farooq walks into that group you have to seize what’s in front of you and he’s already taken that opportunity.”
Despite having obvious nerves before his franchise debut in Team Abu Dhabi’s convincing first game win over Bangla Tigers on the tournament’s opening night, Farooq channelled any of those nerves into a starring role in the field.
Farooq took one superb catch and performed a stunning piece of fielding on the boundary to prevent a six and his intensity — an essential element of Farbrace’s ethos for Team Abu Dhabi — was there for all to see in his franchise debut.
“It feels like it is a big moment for me because I was only just recently working eight hours a day as a data entrant for a steel company and now I’m a professional franchise cricketer. It is a great achievement for me,” said Farooq.
“When we first started the match I was a little nervous but when we were going for the fielding practice, all the players — Chris Gayle, Liam Livingstone, Colin Ingram, Marchant de Lange — all came to me and just told me to enjoy myself and relax. It helped me a lot.”
Farooq will now be hoping to make an impact when he gets a chance with the bat and also to showcase his leg spin, albeit in a side that contains Livingstone and Danny Briggs as front line spinners.
That certainly won’t deter someone of Farooq’s ambition and he not only has his sights on making an even greater impact on the pitch but also helping Team Abu Dhabi claim their first Abu Dhabi T10 title, concluding; “Inshallah, we’ll do our very best and win the trophy.”