UAE v Zimbabwe, World Cup 2015, Group B, Nelson February 18, 2015

Amjad shelves cargo hauls for wickets

Although a UAE native, Amjad Javed's passion for cricket was instilled by Pakistan's 1992 World Cup triumph but four years later he realised he could dream of playing for the country of his birth

'After I watched the '92 World Cup it was like, I want to play for Pakistan. When I saw '96 when UAE was representing, everything changed, it changed my country!' © Getty Images

Much has been made of Khurram Khan's travels. The UAE vice-captain is a purser for the Emirates airline, once met Brian Lara while working, and saw the MCG ten times from the airline's preferred hotel in Melbourne before he finally got to play there last week. But Khurram is not the only man in the UAE who travels widely with Emirates for work. Amjad Javed's role just isn't quite as glamorous.

Amjad is a load master, responsible for overseeing the loading of cargo flights, ensuring the weight and balance on the plane is correct. But unlike your typical baggage handler, Amjad's job does not end when the plane takes off. Like Khurram, he goes with it.

"Most of the time I am flying with the cargo flights on Emirates airline," Amjad told ESPNcricinfo. "I go all over the world, in a month maybe once I'll be in Australia, and then I'll be in America, or Kenya or somewhere else. It's a bit difficult, all the time changing.

"I'm quite busy, always flying. It's difficult to be there for the practices, but my fitness trainer and my physio, they always give me a fitness programme. It's easier for me to when I'm out-stationed, always there is a gym and a find a fitness centre, I go there and do all the fitness training."

All the training - fitness during his 15 work days a month, net sessions with the UAE squad during his 15 days off - has been worth it. On Thursday, Amjad will make his World Cup debut against Zimbabwe in the small city of Nelson. It is a far cry from Dubai; the Nelson airport does not bother with baggage carousels, instead placing the few pieces of checked luggage from a flight on a trolley out the front of the airport.

"We could not land our 777 here," Amjad joked.

Amjad's World Cup debut will be the culmination of a 23-year love affair with cricket that began when Pakistan - including his now coach Aaqib Javed - won the World Cup final in 1992. Amjad's grandfather had moved the family from Pakistan to the UAE during the 1960s and having been born and raised in Dubai, Amjad received little exposure to cricket.

My parents told me you should go and I'll put you in some academy or team in Pakistan ... But somewhere in my heart it was there, that this is my first country

"My grandfather told me 'come and watch this, this is cricket and Pakistan is playing in the final'," Amjad said. "He encouraged me, my grandfather, my parents, that was the first time that I took cricket seriously. I was I think 12. So since then I took cricket seriously in the schools and after that, wherever there was cricket, I was there."

Not that Amjad ever dreamed, at the time, of playing for the UAE. He didn't even realise it was a possibility. Then came the next World Cup, in 1996, at which Sultan Zarawani's UAE team made its debut on the big stage. Amjad's eyes were opened to the possibility of representing the country of his birth, not of his ancestors.

"It really motivated me that, yes, UAE is also playing in such a big event," Amjad said. "After I watched the '92 World Cup it was like, I want to play for Pakistan. When I saw '96 when UAE was representing, everything changed, it changed my country! I thought, I was born in UAE, so this is my country, so why not try in this country.

"To be very honest, when I was in school I was representing Under-19, at that time I was confused. My parents told me you should go and I'll put you in some academy or team in Pakistan ... But somewhere in my heart it was there, that this is my first country, going to Pakistan and playing there is a bit difficult."

Amjad made the UAE selectors sit up and take notice when he made his debut in a domestic game for Emirates Airline and plundered a century from 37 balls in Sharjah. He has scored three hundreds in first-class and List A cricket, but in this World Cup is likely to bat down the order, with his swing bowling the more prominent aspect of his game.

He enjoyed the helpful swinging conditions in New Zealand last year at the World Cup qualifiers, and hopes there will be some movement available against Zimbabwe in Nelson. Amjad is coming off 4 for 39 against Afghanistan in the warm-up game in Melbourne last Friday, and he also performed admirably in taking 1 for 42 against Australia at the MCG.

He was pleased to bowl a maiden over to Aaron Finch, who went on to smash a century at the same ground three days later against England on the first day of the tournament proper. But playing in an official World Cup match on Thursday will be different again and Amjad, a father of two daughters and two sons, has been receiving plenty of messages of support from back home.

"Half of the family is in Pakistan and half in Dubai, they will be waking up early in the morning," he says. "My son is very eager. He is telling his friends in the school, and they say 'okay, we will also watch your father' ... One of my managers is flying out, he wants to watch me play against India in Perth. It's quite motivating if some of your colleagues come here to watch."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

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  • Devarshi on February 19, 2015, 2:41 GMT

    Fascinating and heartwarming stories like these are what makes the WorldCup special. I don't understand why ICC doesn't get this.

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