International Cricket Stars Visit Dhahran
Mohammad Irfan, at over 7 feet tall the tallest fast bowler in the history of the sport of cricket, puts on a demonstration for budding cricket players during the recent Dhahran Cricket Association “Mega-Event.” Irfan was joined by fellow Pakistani star Sarfraz Ahmed on a rare opportunity for adult and child fans alike to meet players they normally see on TV. (Photo: Haroon Awan)

Cricket is a way of life for legions of devotees in the world. That’s why, when two players from Pakistan’s national cricket team recently visited Dhahran to promote the sport, members of the Dhahran Cricket Association (DCA) couldn’t keep their wickets intact.

The Dhahran Cricket Grounds played host to Pakistan’s newly appointed captain of the shortest format of the game, wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed, and the tallest fast bowler in the history of the sport at 7.1 feet, Mohammad Irfan. Muhammad Razi Khan, president of the DCA, said he wanted the community to get unprecedented access to the athletes who compete on the international stage.

It was undeniably a unique opportunity for cricket enthusiasts to interact with professional players they normally only see on TV. The “Mega-Event” featured family-oriented activities, including a bouncy castle, a clown, children’s slides, face-painting, photo opportunities, a comedy show, barbecue, and even a friendly match involving two DCA teams and the professionals.

A Dream Come True

International Cricket Stars Visit Dhahran
Wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed displays some
of the skills that helped him earn the honor of
being the captain of the Pakistan national team
for the shortest format of cricket.
(Photo: Sadaqat Ali)

“It’s our dream for us as players to play with them,” said Rafiq Khurshid, former DCA president and the one responsible for the stars’ showing. During the match, Ahmed took turns batting with members from each team, while Irfan bowled to them in a shortened run-up. It was an exceptional mentorship experience for Dhahran cricketers to not only learn from the specialists but to also mature their game to a higher standard.

Earlier in the day, the experts held a coaching clinic for younger cricketers in the nets. “Whatever difficulties the kids were having, we talked to them about it,” Irfan said as he reflected on the youth training. “We’ll teach them more of our skills (next time we come) — so that the lower-ranked players can grow more easily.”

The Central Community Services Department (CCSD) and Dhahran Recreation Services Division (DRSD) played instrumental roles in the event and were thanked whole heartedly by the DCA executive team.

Meshari Al-Shaikh Mubarak, acting manager of CCSD, said the self-directed groups are an integral part of what they do. “As long as you guys continue to put forth the effort, our support is there by default,” he said. “We want to provide the best environment possible for the community. We thank you for spending your own time to make the community as vibrant as we want it to be.”

Turki Rayyani, DRSD administrator, also lauded the DCA for being one of “the most active groups within the community” that continuously brings new ideas and new activities year in and year out. The DCA has also entertained other Pakistani cricketing superstars in the past, including Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi and Saqlain Mushtaq.

Top Performers

For local cricketers who participated in DCA’s annual Invitational Tournament, recognition of the participants and winners occurred alongside the Pakistani pros as part of a lively award ceremony. This year’s top award winners were: Asif Ahmad (best captain), Sarfaraz Alam (best all-rounder), Rehan Khan (best batsman), and Alam (again as best bowler). Contestants in DCA’s youth wing were also acknowledged, with the DYCA Hawks beating the DYCA Sharks in the tournament final. The standout performers in the youth league were: Abdullah Ather (best all-rounder), Aaqib Abdurahim (best batsman), and Mohammad Ahmed (best bowler).

Al-Shaikh Mubarak said the inclusion of elite athletes in Saudi Aramco takes “the entire recreational activity to the next level.” For his part, Pakistan T20 captain Ahmed thanked Saudi Aramco and the DCA team for organizing such a pleasurable gathering. He commented that while he hoped his visit promoted passion for the game among the children of the expat community, he also hoped Saudi Arabia could soon pitch a team on the global platform.

With exposure to stars like these, perhaps that day isn’t too far away.