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Feature

Aayan Khan - UAE's teenage record-breaker

The 16-year old broke Mohammad Amir's record to become the youngest to play at a men's T20 World Cup

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
16-Oct-2022
When Aayan Khan was named in UAE's starting XI against Netherlands in Geelong, the Goa-born teenager broke Mohammad Amir's record and became the youngest to play in the men's T20 World Cup. He was just 16-years-and-335-days old.
It wasn't the perfect debut Aayan may have hoped for, but one that he and the UAE team will learn a lot from, especially after giving Netherlands a huge scare during their chase of 112.
Aayan is primarily a batting allrounder, but the presence of more established players pushed him down to No. 8. When he eventually took strike with nine balls to go, he had to give a stumbling innings some impetus; UAE had slipped from 91 for 2 to 104 for 6. Aayan managed five off seven balls and was dismissed off the penultimate delivery of the innings, trying to back away and carve one over extra cover.
With the ball, he delivered one over in the powerplay, largely holding his own with some thrifty wicket-to-wicket left-arm spin, barring one full toss that was swept to the square-leg boundary by Max O'Dowd. His dismissal of Colin Ackermann in his third over, when he induced a top edge to deep square leg, triggered a bit of panic in the Dutch camp. Aayan finished with figures of 3-0-15-1.
It was only Aayan's third T20I, having made his debut during Bangladesh's tour of the UAE in September this year. And CP Rizwan, his captain, believes Aayan can go a long way.
"He has a good head on his shoulders and reads the game really well," Rizwan said at the post-match press conference. "To be able to execute his skills in a World Cup game, I thought he bowled reasonably well. I'm sure there's a big future for him."
Aayan had moved to the UAE at the age of two in 2007. He idolises Hardik Pandya, and was inspired to play cricket when he watched India lift the 2011 World Cup. From taking throwdowns from his father Afzal, who played club cricket in Goa before migrating to the UAE to work at a bank, Aayan took baby steps at a more formal coaching set up in 2012. His rise has been swift since.
Aayan writes and throws with his right hand but bowls with his left because his father had wanted him to bowl like Irfan Pathan. Aayan wasn't the tallest in his group, and so his coaches at Desert Cub worked on turning him into a spinner by showing him videos of Ravindra Jadeja.
As a ten-year old, he played at the Under-16 level, and graduated to club cricket and A division - the highest grade below the national team - at the age of 14. Since then, Aayan has been scoring big runs for Sharjah Fujairah Pacific Gymkhana. Earlier this year, he played a starring role by hitting 93 and being the Player of the Match in UAE's upset of West Indies at the Under-19 World Cup in the Caribbean, where they won the plate final.
Aayan's career has seen a surge in the last six months. In August, he was called up as part of UAE's reserves for the Asia Cup qualifiers in Oman. After UAE failed to make it to the main tournament, the selectors' search for a young allrounder led to Aayan getting a chance when Bangladesh toured the UAE for two T20Is.
Aayan scored 25 off 17 balls on debut to keep UAE in the chase until he was the ninth batter dismissed. They eventually fell short by seven runs.
The inaugural ILT20 - a six-team franchise competition - in the UAE this January also brings with it several possibilities, not least the chance to impress IPL owners and scouts. Now, while he is also lugging his school textbooks around Australia, Aayan could have two more opportunities against Sri Lanka and Namibia to show the world what he can do.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo