Exclusive interview: UAE captain Rizwan speaks about his cricket journey, life goals and more

Rizwan said that his side is pumped going into the T20 World Cup, following the disappointment in the Asia Cup.

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CP Rizwan
CP Rizwan

United Arab Emirates (UAE) are gearing up for the T20 World Cup 2022, which will commence on October 16 in Australia. This will be only their second appearance in the major tournament after featuring in the 2014 edition in Bangladesh where they finished fourth in Group B.

UAE were one of the favourites to win the qualification round in the Asia Cup 2022 but it ended in disappointment, finishing third on the table. Their captain CP Rizwan said that it was his hard pill to swallow but are willing to learn from the mistakes and are pumped going into the T20 World Cup. Meanwhile, Rizwan, in an exclusive interview with CricTracker, spoke about his cricketing journey from Kerala to UAE, cricket in UAE, life goals and more.

Here are the questions and answers from the interview with CP Rizwan:

1. What are your first cricketing memories?

My first cricketing memory, I would say, is playing backyard cricket at my home with my cousins in Tellicherry, Kerala.

2. Who was your idol growing up?

My Idol in cricket while growing up was Shane Warne as I used to be a leg-spinner, and played for Kerala U-17 state as a leg spinner; so [I] used to watch a lot of videos of him. And now, I really look up to Virat Kohli for his batting prowess and Moeen Ali for his top-class all-round skills.

3. Do you think the fact that the UAE do not get the opportunity to test themselves against some of the major teams in the world ends up limiting the growth and development of its players?

Yes, we would definitely love to get more opportunities against top nations and test ourselves against them; playing them more often would only make us better. I was lucky enough to have shared the dressing room with a legend like Imran Tahir when he played for our domestic team Interglobe Marine. Taking to him about the game and learning from him, always helped. 

But when you compete against the best players and teams in the world, it definitely brings the best out of you. We are playing two T20Is against Bangladesh before we leave for Australia, thanks to Bangladesh Board and Emirates Cricket Board for arranging the Friendship Series. Hopefully, we will get more opportunities like this in the future.

4. What steps have been undertaken by the Emirates Cricket Board to promote and enhance cricket at the grassroots level in UAE?

Emirates cricket has a very strong, sustainable pathway for player development. One successful, important initiative in this pathway is the Emirates D series, which brings the best players from across the seven Emirates, selected by and played under council-recognized teams in 10 over (D10) 20 over (D20) and a 50 over (D50) format series.

These short formats of the game are very competitive and provide for thrilling cricketing action, and the board is cognizant of providing such opportunities for our coaching and high-performance team to identify young talent, and then integrate them into an effective professional strategy with the ultimate aim of building a strong national team.

5. How difficult was the result in the Asia Cup 2022 qualifiers to digest? How did you boost the morale of the players following the event?

Yes, definitely it was a hard pill to take as we started the tournament as the favourites to win the tournament and qualify for the Asia cup to play and test ourselves against the giants of Asian Cricket. But we will definitely learn from our mistakes, come back stronger, and make an impact in the World Cup in Australia. We are working really hard under the guidance of Robin Singh, our coach, and boys are really pumped. And we are definitely looking forward to giving our 200 per cent in Australia.

6. What are the goals as an individual and as the captain of UAE going forward?

I am a person with a lot of goals and sure am an ambitious individual, even though I don’t want to disclose it now. Having said that, our feet are firm on the process and will definitely take it one step at a time. Irrespective of the outcome, we will push ourselves and will keep trying to get better and become the better version of ourselves every single day.

We have a mix of experienced and exceptionally unbelievable talented guys who can make an impact in the World Cup. Mohammed Waseem, one of the top ten T20I batters, at the moment, is one among them, and Ayan Khan, a 16-year-old prodigy, will make his debut in the World Cup. It’s definitely exciting times ahead.

7. What inspired you to become a batter, given that you started out as a leg-spinner?

I started as a leg-spinner but always took batting seriously. During my Under-19 Kerala days, my state coach Biju George asked me to focus more on batting, and he had given me confidence that I was exceptional with my batting. So, I worked a lot on my batting and also scored a lot of runs for my junior Kerala teams. And I even lead the Under-25 Kerala team to become South Zone runners, where big powerhouses such as Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad also competed.

The journey has been great, starting as a leg spinner and then going on to score ODI hundred and a lot of match-winning contributions to the country. It has been great, and looking forward to contributing a lot to the country and creating a legacy for the upcoming cricketers. But having said that, I still bowl a lot in domestic cricket in UAE. I have a couple of seven-wicket hauls and even hold a record of 4 wickets in 4 balls.

8. From an electrical engineer hailing from Kerala to leading UAE cricket team in the biggest of stages, what has the journey been like?

As I said, I was part of the top 30 from Kerala who was called for the Kochi Tuskers [Kerala] trial when I was in Kerala. So I was doing well. I was part of the Kerala Ranji Trophy squad for two years but unfortunately did not get my debut. After that, I had to take a break to finish my engineering. Then I had to fly to UAE, balancing work and cricket. It was tough but I kept pursuing that, I kept grinding. God has been kind. I have to give a lot of credit to my family and friends, and all the coaches who have supported me through my journey. I know it’s just a start. We will keep the process continuing, improve day by day and take it forward.

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