Mohammad Nabi Sharjah Warriors
Mohammad Nabi leads ILT20’s ‘local’ Afghan contingent at Sharjah Warriors
- All-rounder assured new league will set high standards in world franchise cricket
Sharjah, December 28: If there was ever a torch-bearer of the indomitable Afghan spirit on the cricket field, Mohammad Nabi will be the best choice. And the all-rounder is invoking the strong community presence in the UAE to come out in full support for Sharjah Warriors when the International League T20 tournament marks its debut on January 13.
The veteran statesman goes by the nickname “Mr President” given his stature as a leader of the team which has risen remarkably in the past decade and also played an aggressive brand of cricket. It took only four years for Afghanistan elevate from Associate nation status to a Full member within the International Cricket Council, and Nabi was captain of the team on the field for most of that period.
Nabi, 37, still wears his passion on his sleeve and gave up captaincy of his national team after the ICC T20 World Cup in Australia in November. Sharjah Warriors captain Moeen Ali can count on his expertise when the team takes the field especially at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium where the Afghan contingent of Nabi, Naveen-ul-Haq, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Noor Ahmad are guaranteed boisterous support.
Sharjah is also a second home, literally, for Nabi where he trains while living in the neighbouring emirate of Ajman. Excerpts from a free-wheeling interview with the cricketer:
1) There’s lot of T20 cricket ahead for you with the ILT20 league starting in January. How excited are you to be part of the Sharjah Warriors under Moeen Ali?
The League is happening for the first time. And we are all hoping it reaches great heights. The team at Sharjah Warriors has also shaped well and seems a great combination which is a perfect fit for the conditions here in the UAE.
2) How do you see the composition of the Sharjah Warriors squad and your initial impression of the league as it is shaping up?
We have good batsmen. In the bowling department also, there is a lot of talent and even variety. I think we are a solid, all-round side and we can do well in the conditions which are more local to us then compared to the competition.
3) Among Asian players in UAE’s conditions which are similar to the subcontinent, the Afghanistan players are in demand and hot property for the ILT20. Do you think it is just the conditions’ advantage or it also reflects on the rising stock of Afghanistan in world cricket?
It is both. The conditions suit us well here. Afghan players are playing everywhere in the world. We have few playing in the Big Bash of Australia currently. Some of us are just back from the Lanka Premier League. We have played in the Pakistan Super League. And now here in the ILT20, the trend should continue. We are also used to playing here in the UAE, we Afghans should do well at the top level.
4) Wearing a captain’s hat, what kind of roles and in what situations do you see for your Sharjah teammates: a) Naveen-ul-Haq b) Rahmanullah Gurbaz and c) Noor Ahmad
Everyone is a good pick if I was the selector. Naveen-ul-Haq has good variations as a fast bowler and he has shown good pace while bowling for Afghanistan. Gurbaz is a power hitter who likes to go over the top. He can give the team a good start and put us in good positions. The chinaman deliveries of Noor can be difficult to tackle in these conditions. If he gets going, he can single-handedly run through the opposition.
5) Afghanistan will play all international cricket again for the next five years. You have always been playing here if not training in India. Does that make Afghan players count as local players in the ILT20?
You can say that. We all have been using the UAE as our home base for many years now; I have been living here (in Ajman) for two years now. So yes, we can be counted as a local only in a manner of speaking.
6) You were the first Afghan player to be bought at the IPL auction (by Sunrisers Hyderabad) but played only three matches. You reckon you were underused by Sunrisers?
I got an opportunity through Sunrisers Hyderabad and grateful for that but I also did not get more opportunities after that. I was at my peak then I even performed well in a match but used to get dropped in the next one. It was difficult to cement your place in the team in the conditions prevalent then. Then there was Rashid Khan also with in the team with me and it was difficult to incorporate two spinners especially from overseas.
7) You have an experience to play in the IPL for four years. Afghanistan team has trained in India for a few years. Is it an advantage for your side with the ICC World Cup 2023 being played there?
Definitely. Apart from the familiarity, the conditions in India are pretty similar to what us Afghan players play and practice in. It is a great opportunity for us to do well at the World Cup.
8) There is a lot of talent in the Indian team but have missed out on winning the silverware at the World Cups or even the Asia Cup held in the UAE … what could be the reason?
Winning or losing is no parameter. If there are 2-3 teams that are ready to be spun out as a competitive national side, there is nothing to worry. And India has that kind of talent.
9) Afghanistan has qualified for 2023 ODI World Cup ahead of even teams such as South Africa. Is it a vindication of the talent in Afghanistan and how do you see the team’s progress parallelly in white-ball cricket?
Surely there is a lot of talent among us. Back home even on the benchstrength I can see a good lot of talented cricketers waiting in the wings and capable of doing well on the big stage. Our qualification for the World Cup has been also down to some strategic planning and acting on it. We had planned well in advance and targeted the key series in which we had to whitewash the opposition and which we acted upon as per the plan.
10) Sharjah has a lot of fan following for Afghans. How do you see the Sharjah Warriors and the fans rooting for you as genuine local supporter base in the home-and-away basis of the league?
I think we have seven or eight games in Sharjah so it should be good to play in front of our fans. I would request everyone to come out in large numbers and support Sharjah Warriors. I am sure they will come, Inshallah.