Born in the city of Kohat in Pakistan, Rohan Mustafa migrated as a child to the UAE (United Arab Emirates) 🇦🇪, barely 13 years old at the time. He started playing for the Sharjah Cricket academy immediately, but tragedy struck just a year later, when his father, the bread-earner of the family, passed away. In such a time of crisis when no one was around to support him, his family stood by him and didn’t let him stop playing. Today, Mustafa is the captain of the UAE national cricket team!
It has been a successful career so far for Mustafa, an all-rounder who has taken his country home on several occasions. However, it wasn’t a very easy ride for him all along, as he did have to work extremely hard to get to where he is today. Mustafa took the time out to talk to us at Read Scoops and give us some insights into his career as a professional cricketer. Keep reading for more…
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ROHAN MUSTAFA’s Exclusive Interview With Read Scoops:
While most people believed Mustafa should’ve found himself a job, his family backed him and soon, he was part of a club called Phoenix Medicines, before he moved on to playing for the national team, beginning with the Under-19’s. From being an in-and-out player in the senior side, Mustafa has transformed his game to become a consistent performer. Today, his name will certainly pop up when you talk about some of the greatest ODI all-round performances. Read more about his illustrious career:
Q1. What would you describe as the best day of your cricketing career thus far? Why?
“The best day of my UAE cricket career has to be when I scored 77(50) and took 3 wickets (3/19) against Afghanistan in the 2016 Asia Cup Qualifiers. Some brilliant bowlers like Rashid Khan and Dawlat (Zadran) were a part of that bowling attack which made it an even more special knock to me, and this ultimately helped UAE to qualify to the main tournament. Another great day for me was when I scored 109 and took 5 wickets against PNG in 2017. Only Viv Richards and Paul Collingwood had achieved this milestone in the history of ODI cricket, with me becoming the third, so it was quite special to have my name in the record books among such high quality players.”
Mustafa was the first player to be awarded a national team contract for UAE, not too long ago. Ever since then, the times have changed in the country, and cricket can now be looked at as something more than just a part-time profession or a hobby. We thus wanted to know more about the developments in UAE cricket over the years.
“There’s the T10 league happening here as well as plans of an Emirates T20 League in December-January later this year, so if you perform well from the U-19 level onwards, there is a high chance of picking up a contract. To be honest, there wasn’t much of a future as a UAE cricketer earlier, as no one used to get contracts. However, the future seems pretty bright right now. We’re now around 14-15 UAE cricketers playing professional cricket and there’s now a lot of scope for youngsters and students in the circuit. Anyone can think about cricket as a profession in the country right now.”
Mustafa was also selected to be a part of the inaugural Global T20 Canada, which concluded a couple of months back. He was picked up by the Toronto Nationals which was captained by Darren Sammy. Though the team finished last, Mustafa shared the dressing room with some of the biggest international stars.
Q3. Describe the experience being a part of the Toronto Nationals franchise.
“Honestly, it was a very tough time for me and the Toronto Nationals team. I didn’t get a chance to play in the tournament, but just being a part of that squad was a very proud feeling for me. There were a few World Cup winners in the squad (including 2-time T20 World Cup winner, Darren Sammy), as well as batting maestro, Steve Smith. It was a great achievement for me just to be a part of that squad. The results and performances weren’t very good for the team in that historic tournament, but we can only learn from mistakes. Personally, I learnt a lot from them and I think that experience will help me a lot in my future.”
Q4. Tell us more about your association with Stem Sports and the work they are doing.
“Uzayr bhai (Director of Stem Sports) is one of the most calm characters I have ever met, while I am quite an aggressive person on the cricket field. He’s a very nice guy who has always supported me and asked me to remain calm as well. It hasn’t actually been a very long time since my association with Stem Sports began, but they’re a very helpful bunch and they’re trying their best to help associate cricketers to be noticed on the biggest stage.”
Mustafa was also selected to play in the Everest Premier League (EPL), a T20 tournament in Nepal which has completed two successful seasons already. He will be play for Kathmandu Kings with Sompal Kami, with whom he has partnered well in the past in the Dhangadhi Premier League. They won that tournament, with Mustafa scoring 198 runs and taking 9 wickets in his 6 matches there, including a match-winning 60(42) and 2/46 in the final where his franchise Dhangadhi Team Chauraha beat Kathmandu Goldens by 21 runs.
“EPL is the biggest T20 tournament in Nepal. In the past, I’ve played the Dhangadhi Premier League (DPL) under Sompal Kami, who is one of the better bowlers in Nepal. On the first day, he told me ‘See Rohan, I’m the one who goes out for the toss and stuff, but you are the real captain and you can make the decisions on the field.’ So, when you get such a welcome in a new team, your confidence goes through the roof. Sompal is a supportive and very positive person, so we always keep in touch and playing the EPL with him again is going to be brilliant. Along with him, Sikandar Raza is easily my best friend in the cricketing industry and I’m looking forward to playing with both these stars in the same team.”
Q6. Tell us about the T10 league that you are also a part of. What do you think about this format of the game?
“T10 is quite an interesting format of the game, and you can’t say anything about this format. Any man can change the game in the space of 1 or 2 overs, and there isn’t really any ‘best team’ in T10. There’s plenty to learn from this T10 tournament as well, since you play alongside so many international test players. I played under one of my favourite players, Eoin Morgan and I learnt a lot. I played all the matches last season but I didn’t really get much of a chance to prove myself. I’m quite excited to be a part of the upcoming T10 season again and hopefully, this time, I’ll get a proper chance. Haha!”
Mustafa made brilliant contributions in the ICC Division 2 League as well, picking 13 wickets and scoring 183 runs to take UAE to the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers. His form continued at the World Cup Qualifiers, where he scored 198 runs and took 13 wickets in 7 games. After such spirited performances, however, UAE will not be a part of the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
“To be honest, it was quite a harsh decision to have just 10 teams at the World Cup. We work hard but don’t get proper cricket exposure. The last time I played the World Cup, it was a great experience for all the players. Something you can remember for the rest of your life. When I heard about the 10-team rule, the player morale dropped a bit, as it becomes quite hard to qualify. I think it should be 14 teams each time. As you know, associate teams are doing good things in cricket these days, with Scotland recently beating England in an ODI recently, and Afghanistan doing pretty well too. We can only improve when we play against good sides, so 14 teams at the World Cup will help cricket grow automatically.”
Q8. Tell us more about Rohan Mustafa the person.
“I’m a very honest person in life. Whatever comes to my heart and my mind, I speak it. I don’t hold back and don’t keep things in my heart. I’m very aggressive on the field and most people don’t like that, but they still support me and I’m very grateful for that. Off the field, I’m very friendly and funny. It’s my father who was supporting everyone, especially the poor people. I still remember, as a kid, I would wake up in the morning in Pakistan and whenever I go out of the house, there would be some poor people standing out there and ask about my father. He always supported the poor and I want to follow the same path as him. I have just begun supporting a few orphans in Pakistan. Whenever I win a Man of the Match or Man of the Series award, I donate it to my charity foundation. It’s my dream to open a charitable foundation on my father’s name whenever in life I am able to. This is what Rohan Mustafa believes in.”
Q9. A message for young, aspiring sportsmen from around the world?
“Don’t get scared of mistakes, as they are the biggest teachers. You learn from mistakes and when you do so, you improve a lot. I believe in hard work and if you work hard, you can achieve anything in life. I would say that if you want to be a good cricketer or want to excel in any other profession in life, you just need to give your 100% focus towards that. Don’t waste time. Whenever you go to practice or do whatever you want to achieve, just work hard towards it. That’s the main message I would give everyone.”
On behalf of the entire team of Read Scoops, I would like to thank Rohan Mustafa for sparing some time to talk to us and give us some insights into his career. I would also like to wish him the best of luck for the upcoming EPL, T10 and other global tournaments, while also hoping to see him lead UAE in a World Cup tournament one day.