Ahmed Raza-RCB
Ahmed Raza, the UAE captain, bowls at the RCB nets as batting coach Simon Katich keeps an eye in Dubai. Image Credit: Royal Challengers Bangalore

Dubai: While the IPL 2020 in the UAE is producing new heroes every other day, the host country can take pride on more counts than just taking up the organisational challenge of the league. At three players of the UAE national team have done stints with two of the franchises - Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians - and they cannot get over the experience.

‘‘If you want me to describe it in one word, it was surreal. The three weeks were like spending in an university of cricket,’’ remarked Ahmed Raza, the UAE skipper and left-arm spinner who trained with Virat Kohli’s men by being a part of the bubble. Karthik Meiyappan, the 19-year-old UAE leg-spinner, has also been drafted in by RCB to train with the side and he is still a part of them.

A third local cricketer, Zahoor Khan, an experienced pace bowler of the UAE team was drafted by champions Mumbai Indians during their preparation in Abu Dhabi. Khan, who was one of the three cricketers from associate nations to figure in draft for the IPL auction held last December but went unsold, was gratified after his experience with Rohit Sharma’s team.

Zahoor Khan, the UAE pace bowler, who was roped in as Mumbai Indians as a net bowler. Image Credit: Supplied photo

Speaking to Gulf News over phone, veteran Raza said he would be happy to utilise some of the takeaways from his experience in the UAE cricket set-up - which could be invaluable given the fact that they play a lot of T20 cricket themselves. ‘‘There had been so many things to learn, say for example the way they do opposition-specific training before each game. As an example, I can tell you that Washington Sundar, who is now proving to be a surprise weapon for RCB in the powerplay overs, had been in practice with the new ball for some time now,’’ said Raza, who completed his stint with RCB recently.

It was in early September that Raza was contacted by the RCB management on advice of Sridharan Sriram, the former India spinner who is now part of the RCB coaching staff. A left-arm spinner himself during his playing days, Sriram had also fallen back on help from Raza during Australia’s tour of the UAE - as he is a spin bowling consultant of the Baggy Greens.

‘‘The big names in the squad like (Virat) Kohli, AB Villiers or Aaron Finch proved to be extremely warm and friendly people and treated us both as fellow professionals. I had been bowling in tandem at the nets with the likes of Sundar, Pawan Negi and Chahal.


‘‘I have bowled against Virat before. No, there were no fan moments really as once at the nets, it was a competitive battle between bat and ball. Well, the feelings may have been different had it been 10 years back but not at this stage of my career,’’ Raza revealed.

The experience had been no less fascinating for Zahoor Khan, who said in a recent interview that discussing his slower ball technique with Jasprit Bumrah has been his biggest takeaway from the journey.

“I am still pinching myself. Bumrah asked me how do I manage to bowl the slower ball with so much dew around. I discussed my technique with him. Imagine one of the best bowlers in the world asking me about adapting to the conditions in UAE. The feeling is yet to sink in as I never expected such a thing to happen,’’ he said.

“In fact, bowling coach Shane Bond and head coach Mahela Jayawardene too liked what they saw when I hit the nets on the eve of the RCB game. Bond was telling me that I should share the secret of my slower delivery with him. These are the little joys that can never be replaced. After I shared my technique, he turned to our head coach and applauded me,” the bowler had added.