C.P. Rizwan, the newly-appointed T20 captain of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) cricket team for the Asia Cup qualifier hails from the vibrant seaside town of Thalassery in north Kerala. The town is synonymous with the Three Cs — Cricket, Cake and Circus — as it is believed to be the cradle of all the three.
Almost all the Indian circuses are owned by people from Thalassery, the most famous bakeries are based out of Thalassery, and it is said that Colonel Arthur Wellesley, the man who eventually defeated Napoleon and became the Prime Minister of Great Britain, introduced cricket for the first time in India at Thalassery when he was commanding the East India Company’s forces stationed in Kerala in the 1790s.
Since then, Thalassery has produced several players in the state senior cricket league and national cricket junior league.
C.P. Rizwan, an engineer by training, migrated to Dubai, which is the dream destination for most young people living in north Kerala, to land a job and continue playing cricket as an expat. He was a state player in Kerala before he migrated to Dubai.
Rizwan, the young lanky lad from Thalassery, had cracked a century in international cricket by scoring 109 in a four-match series in 2021. He spoke to IANS from Oman, where Team UAE is practicing for the Asia Cup.
Q: You have been selected as captain of the UAE national team for the Asia Cup qualifiers. What’s the feeling like?
A: Very happy and honoured to be leading the national team. At the same time, it is also a major responsibility. I will try my best to fulfil the responsibility and bring laurels to the country.
Q: Rizwan, you are from Thalassery, a town considered the cradle of cricket. Has the cricketing culture of Thalassery helped you in your growth?
A: As you said Thalassery is a cradle of cricket which has produced a lot of top-notch cricketers, present and past. We play cricket with a lot of passion and there is a competitive spirit whether in practice sessions or even in league matches, which polish and develop your cricketing skills. This competitive spirit and passion has helped me to remain tough in high-end games that take a lot of mental toll.
Q: How are the UAE cricket team’s preparations going?
A: Preparations are going on well under the guidance of our coach, Robin Singh sir. We have put in the work, hopefully the results will follow.
Q: Does the UAE team have other Indians playing in the Asia Cup qualifier?
A: We have seven Indian players in the UAE national team, including myself at the moment. They are Basil Hameed, Chirag Suri, Vrithiya Aravind, Karthik Meyyappan, Alishan Sharafu and Aryan Lakra. Of them, Alishan and Basil are from Kerala.
Q: Do you have ample facilities in the UAE to play at the international level?
A: Definitely the facilities in UAE for cricket are top notch, as was evident during the IPL matches that were held here.
Q: What do you feel are UAE’s chances in the Asia Cup qualifiers?
A: We have been in great form at the nets and in selection trials. Players are in good nick and we feel that we will do well to qualify for the Asia Cup matches.
Q: Will we see you in action in IPL as you are now the captain of the UAE national team?
A: There is UAE’s international league that is going to happen in January 2023. If selected and if I perform well there, you never know. Having said that, I am not thinking too far I have to take one step at a time.
Q: If ever your team plays against India (in the Asia Cup), your motherland, what will be the feeling?
A: It will be a special feeling for sure, but don’t want to take too much ahead. I want to take it one match at a time, focus on the task at hand in the (Asia Cup) qualifier, and then take it from there. I want to thank everyone including my coaches and the UAE cricket administration, my family, my friends, and all my former colleagues and players at my home town Thalassery. Thank you all for the support and prayers.