Usman Khan was just starting to think he had things all figured out.
Cricket in his native Pakistan had not panned out as he had hoped. Now in his mid-20s and with bills to pay, he had left for the UAE for work.
He had found a job in Ajman, with a benevolent, cricket-loving boss who gave him a role in the purchasing department of his gas distribution company.
As much time off to play cricket as he needed, too, so long as he excelled for the staff team, of course.
Maybe a crack at selection for the UAE team if he stays long enough and becomes eligible for selection after three years as a resident.
And why would the national team not want a player who has already scored 18 centuries in UAE’s domestic circuit, just seven months after arriving here?
Then, a twist. The right-handed top-order batsman got a call from home to come back and bolster the Quetta Gladiators squad in the PSL.
He warmed the bench for a few games, and then got his chance. And the Multan Sultans bowlers – including internationals like Imran Tahir, Sohail Khan and Carlos Brathwaite – could not live with him.
Now, his professional T20 career record stands at one match played, career average 81, strike rate 162.
Then the PSL was paused because of Covid, and back he headed to UAE. He had one chance to advertise his ability on the biggest scale, and is now back to playing domestic cricket in Sharjah.
What happens next, who knows, but the player himself is just grateful for the faith shown in him by his employers here in UAE.
“I’m stationed in UAE and most of the cricket I play is in UAE, but I got a call to go and play in PSL,” said Usman, who is playing for Fujairah in the Emirates D10.
“Now I am back. I am a permanent resident after I’ve been working for the past seven months with Brothers Gas.
“I had been having some financial issues in Pakistan. The primary reason I came to UAE was to look for a job and make some money. Thankfully, Brothers Gas have really supported me.”
When the PSL returns later this year, Usman plans to be there and to pick up where he left off. He has had a taste of the big time, which he wants to repeat.
“I’m in the UAE and my plans are to play for UAE as well, but I do hope to get a release letter from the game here once cricket starts again in Pakistan,” Usman said.
“When I was playing in the PSL, I was just focused on watching the ball. I didn’t feel any pressure as I had been waiting for this opportunity.
“Once I got my chance, I wanted to play to the best of my potential. I think I showed that, by making 81 runs.
“Thanks to Allah, hopefully I will be able to play more such knocks in the future.”
Tahir Hasan, the general manager of Brothers Gas, knows he has found a “sensation” for his staff cricket team.
And if he now loses him to higher honours in Pakistan, he says no-one will be more delighted than him.
“I’m a passionate cricket person, and started my club 11 years ago playing on cement grounds,” Tahir said.
“We want to give chances to our own players, those who want to play cricket, work, and earn a livelihood.
“I look for people who want to build their career professionally, and enjoy cricket at the same time.”
Usman was recommended to Tahir as a player who had been excelling in club cricket in Karachi.
“I contacted him and he was ready to come and join my club and my company,” Tahir said.
“He has played some good tournaments here, and in no time, he became a sensation.
“Any talent like that should be recognised. It will be good if the Pakistan Cricket Board acknowledges him and his performances, and give him a chance to play even further.
“Inshallah, he could even play for his country. That is what we pray for him.
“I love people having success, and if they can go on and do something big in their life, that is all the reward I need.”
Published: March 27, 2021 09:38 AM