United Arab Emirates captain Rohan Mustafa will be watching from sidelines when his side will lock horns with Nepal in a historical bilateral One Day International (ODI) and Twenty International series beginning from January 25. Having already been a part of Nepal’s three major domestic franchise leagues, Mustafa has gradually become a fan favourite in Nepal.
But owing to an eight-week long suspension from Emirates Cricket Board under disciplinary grounds, Rohan can only be a spectator when the two emerging nations battle it out in Dubai. Mustafa has been leading his side by an example since taking over the team through last year’s ICC World Cricket League Division II in Namibia.
UAE are making a significant progress in world cricket ladder under Mustafa, retaining the ODI status and giving tough time to oppositions. UAE’s first win against Test-playing nation came under Mustafa when the Emiratis stunned Zimbabwe in the ICC World Cup Qualifier last year. In this interview, Roshan Dhital talks to Mustafa about his relation with Nepali cricket, the suspension and the upcoming series against Nepal. Excerpts:
Q: Are you excited for Nepal-UAE series? How it feels to watch from the sidelines?
Honestly, I always enjoy playing against Nepal as they play with all emotions. Of course I’m very excited as we are hosting bilateral series against Nepal for the very first time. It’s not only about not getting a chance to play against Nepal. It always hurts to miss even a single match for UAE and I’m very disappointed with whatever has happened. It’s quite embarrassing.
Q: How are you spending your off-time? Are you working on any specific areas?
I’m playing domestic cricket in UAE. It was break-time following the celebration of New Year and Christmas but I’m joining domestic side and trying to make most out of this break.
I will work on my leg-side play during this period. Trust me, this break will give me space to try something different which I think will help me to improve as a cricketer. I am unfortunate to miss the series against Nepal but everything happens for good reason. I just hope this break will also prove to be good for me.
Q: What do you think about UAE chances in this series? UAE might miss your services along with two other suspended duo (Ahmed Raza and Rameez Shahzad) and retired Adnan Mufti?
Nepal is very competitive side. They have given us tough time in all the tournaments. It is always good to play against a side which tests your character and drag you down to win the game.
UAE will miss few senior players including me, Ahmed, Rameez and the retired Mufti is retired. We still have very good side with talented players coming in from Under-19 team. But missing four senior players in one series will be a bit difficult for us. At the same time, it will give youngsters wide space to prove their worth and I believe our young guns can give very tough time to Nepal. It will be very interesting series to watch.
Q: Getting back to your last assignment, Everest Premier League, how it went for you?
It was great tournament and I really enjoyed it. We lost in knock-out stages but I think we still played good cricket. Local players didn’t perform well. Honestly speaking, had they performed well, we would have lifted the trophy. We were very unfortunate to miss the services of Sompal Kami and Sagar Pun due to injuries. I always feel good to play in front of Nepal’s loud and proud fans and the times spent in Kathmandu we’re very memorable.
Q: How is it to play with Sompal Kami as your teammate?
Look it’s not only about Sompal. I enjoy my each and every second on the field and take it as my first and last match. I always try to win the match for my side and love to lead the team by example.
And about Sompal, he is my brother from another mother. I respect him and he too respects me, this is what makes our bond very strong. He always respects my decision both on and off the field. Whatever might happen, I always love to play from Sompal’s side in Nepal’s domestic leagues (Everest Premier League, Dhangadhi Premier League and Pokhara Premier League).
Q: Having played in all Twenty20 franchise leagues of Nepal, who is your favorite local domestic player?
There are lots of good players in Nepal. Pawan (Pawan Sarraf) is one of them. He bowls, he bats and fields very well. He is very energetic player on the field and has a lot of fighting spirit. Seriously, I see a lots of me in him.
Rohit (Rohit Kumar Paudel) has already represented Nepal. He is also one of my favorites as I love his confidence. Beside them, there is one young player. I forgot his name. He played for Sharad’s team, left handed batsman (Kushal Malla). He is very young and I really loved his courage.
Q: Which Nepalese player you find very tough to play against?
Sompal. He is an excellent fast bowler and got me out on some occasions. Being the opener of the side, I need to face him with new ball which makes tough to tackle his genius. Lamichhane (Sandeep Lamichhane) is also tough bowler to face. We all know about his rise in world cricket. Batting wise, Paras Khadka, Sharad Vesawkar are very good players. Even Malla (Gyanendra Malla) is a very good batsman.
But I will go with Sompal in bowling and Sharad in batting. It is very tough to bowl against Sharad because he takes singles very easily. And with Paras, he just tries to hit you out of the park.
Q: What do you think is the biggest positive and negative aspect of UAE cricket?
They are giving us good salaries because in the end money is the biggest motivator. You will work very hard if you survive well so I think this is biggest positive aspect of UAE cricket.
Talking about negative aspect, we are still lacking proper domestic structure. Trust me, if we get good domestic structure here in UAE we can really improve quickly and become Test playing nation.
Q: Growing up as a cricketer, which cricketer you looked after?
Khurram Khan. I was inspired by his love and dedication towards the game of cricket.
Q: You are now one of the well known players in the world cricket from Associate nation. Looking back to your initial stage, is there anyone who deserves the credit for it?
My mother deserves all the credit behind my success. After losing my father, it was very difficult to survive here in UAE. She supported me and always prayed for me. I would be nowhere without her love, support and prayers. She is my super woman.
Q: Looking back to all the innings you played so far, which one was the most satisfying?
I have scored ODI century against PNG but the innings that satisfied me the most is 77 runs against Afghanistan in ACC Asia Cup Qualifier 2016 where we qualified for Asia Cup. It was a Twenty20 international and I even picked up three wickets in that game.
Q: You have such huge fan-base in Nepal. Do you have any message for them ahead of the series?
Your support will take Nepali cricket to next level. You are backing your players very well and they also want to achieve something at least for you all. There are many internal issues in Nepali cricket which we don’t know but the immense support from fans is the reason why Nepal achieved the ODI status.
Nepal’s fans are loudest and cheerful fans among all the fans I see in the world. I really enjoy playing in front of them. Trust me, irrespective of the result Nepal will fight hard and try to win the up-coming series. (Nepal tour of UAE)