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Batting for cricket to get its big break.

Dubai Mohammad Tauqir is among the very few UAE nationals who have made a mark in cricket. As the vice-captain of the UAE team, he is an inspiration to Emiratis who want to play the game. Playing the role of an allrounder with aplomb, he has contributed in a big way to the UAE's many triumphs since his debut in 1996.

Forty-year-old Tauqir works hard to maintain his fitness and form and is among the most experienced cricketers in the country today. Recently he opted to become an Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Level One coach and is hoping to spread the game among nationals after his playing days. A banker by profession he balances his job with National Bank of Abu Dhabi and the game and is aiming to realise his ultimate dream of playing in the 2015 World Cup.

In an exclusive interview to Gulf News, Tauqir, who top scored in the Asia Cup for UAE with a sparkling half-century against the star-studded Indian team in 2004, spoke about his game, the obstacles that nationals face in taking up the game and his ambitions.

GULF NEWS: How proud are you as a national to have played cricket at the highest level?

MOHAMMAD TAUQIR: I feel very proud to have played for my country especially in cricket which is an expatriate-dominated sport here. So to make a mark as a national in this sport is extremely rewarding. I had to work really hard to get into the team. I made sure to attend all practice sessions, played domestic matches regularly and adhered to all instructions from my coaches.

How did you get interested in a game which is not preferred by nationals?

During the eighties when international teams came to play at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, I used to go with Waleed Bukhatir for the matches. The India-Pakistan matches developed an interest in me and the performance of players like Javed Miandad, Sunil Gavaskar and Mohammad Azharuddin inspired me.

What do you think is the stumbling block for nationals in taking up cricket? Is it the huge popularity of sports like football in the UAE?

From my personal experience I can tell you that if you can guide nationals into the game, they will take it up. This has to be done at the grass-roots level, when they are children. If they get to know about the game early, they will surely play the game.

So what is your suggestion to get them to experience the game and learn about cricket as a sport?

Cricket authorities here must try and spread the game in Arabic-speaking and government schools. The best way would be to reach out to ten-year-old kids. Many nationals can be seen playing football all over UAE but you do not see nationals playing cricket because the game hasn't reached out to them. Most academies are filled with expatriates. So a camp exclusively for nationals explaining them the game and getting them interested can play a big role. We have facilities which are second to none here but the game should first reach the nationals.

Is it with this aim that you decided to qualify as a coach attending the Asian Cricket Council Level One coaches course?

Yes, in the long run I want to help nationals who take up the sport. Right now I am very active as a player and after my playing days I will be happy to help Emirates Cricket Board to spread the game at the grass root level. I am enjoying the game a lot with our new national team coach Aaqib Javed. He made us understand that learning about the game is a never-ending process. I am so happy that I am learning many new things about the game which we were not even aware.

When did you decide to try out the game and take up cricket seriously?

In 1994, after UAE qualified to play in the 1996 World Cup, Vikram Kaul, the then manager of the UAE team organised a camp for a few nationals. So UAE nationals like Saeed Al Saffar, Waleed Bukhatir, Adil Farooq, Arif Yousuf and myself attended the camp. I was terribly fascinated by the game. In 1995, I was included in the Sharjah Colts team for a 25-day tour to England organised by Ali Anwar Jafri. It was my first tour and I had lots of fun playing the game. On return from England I played domestic tournaments regularly and in 1996 got selected to represent UAE in the ACC Trophy in Malaysia.

What do you rate as your greatest moment?

My knock of 55 against India in the 2004 Asia Cup in Sri Lanka. It was my One-day International debut and to get a half-century against such a strong team was indeed special.

How did you become an off spinner?

I began as a medium pacer but our coach Bashir Golandas and Abdul Razzaq Kazim suggested I bowl off-spin. I got tips form Pakistan Test star Tauseef Mohammad and Mushtaq Mohammad and specialised as a spinner.

What is your goal and ambition?

We narrowly missed playing in this year's Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka. In the ongoing Intercontinental Cup, if we finish among the top two we may get to play the 2015 World Cup. It's my dream to play in a World Cup.

ATIQ-UR-REHMAN/Gulf News

Singular passion

Mohammad Tauqir sees his association with cricket continuing after his playing career. He says he will be happy to help the Emirates Cricket Board promote the game at grassroots level.

mohammad tauqir: UAE cricket team vice-captain

profile

selfless innings

n Name: Mohammad Tauqir

n Born: June 21, 1971 in Dubai

Current age: 40 years

n Teams: UAE, ECB Blues

n Position: UAE team vice-captain

n Batting style: Right-hand bat

n Bowling style: Right-arm offbreak

n One-Day International debut: Against India at Dambulla on July 16, 2004 during the Asia Cup

n Best match figures: 10 for 51 against Malaysia in the ICC Inter-Continental Cup

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:May 20, 2012
Words:1017
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