For Khurram Khan, the return journey from Auckland to Dubai earlier this week was a special. First, he could stretch his legs in the plush business-class seat of the Emirates Airlines plane and not worry about the comfort of his fellow passengers. For a change, Khurram was a privileged guest and not a purser. More important, the part-time cricketer was going to be a World Cupper in a year’s time.
During his flights across the globe as the Emirates’ chief flight-attendant, Khurram had come across many cricketers. But only once, claims the characteristically shy left-hander, has he dropped his guard and introduced himself as being the face of UAE cricket for over a decade.
“I couldn’t help myself when I saw Brian Charles Lara. He was very generous. I took some pictures with him. He was surprised that some despite being in my 40s, I was so serious about the game,” recalls Khurram with pride.
The Lara episode though, was an exception. Khurram isn’t habituated to narrating his cricketing exploits.
“At times I would be serving these international cricketers from India and Pakistan. I just introduce myself as being a local cricketer and never tell them about my achievements in UAE colours. I’m always worried they’ll say ‘That’s ok, now go back to work,’ ” he explains.
Those achievements in UAE colours he speaks about are nothing short of world-class. Khurram has not only been the only constant in his team for almost 15 years, he’s also been their most prolific batsman and most consistent bowler. Even the UAE’s eventual qualification for the World Cup was built on their talismanic skipper’s 581 runs at an average of 72.62.
“Maintaining fitness is crucial for me. So I am always armed with my running and fitness gear along with my elastic bands in my bag. I am in the gym as soon as I reach the hotel. If not, I make the most of night flights, doing push-ups in the back,” he says.
Such is Khurram’s schedule that often, he’s had to jump straight out of a flight and into a match for his national team. In fact, he believes that playing a match in those situations could be the best antidote to jet-lag.
“Certain times, I have even flown back from Australia, 14 hours, or the US, a 15-hour direct flight, come home, changed and left for a match,” he says.
Khurram’s cricketing journey, interestingly, began on the streets of Multan, alongside two brothers who played first-class cricket. But a failure to break into the senior teams, despite a successful stint with Tariq Cricket Club, saw him shift base to the UAE.
“I scored a century for Fly Emirates club in my first match and went home with a job,” he says.
While he looks forward to his next business-class visit Down Under in 12 months’ time, without the Emirates uniform that is, the grand old man of UAE cricket insists that he no will longer feel inhibited when he encounters an international cricketer.
He says confidently: “I’ll tell them, you might be facing my left-arm spin during the World Cup.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines