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Updated December 16th, 2023 at 00:09 IST

“ILT20 helped me grow as a cricketer,” says UAE U19 Skipper Aayan Afzal Khan

Making rapid strides in international cricket is UAE’s U-19 skipper Aayan Afzal Khan, who has led his team into the semi-finals of the ACC U19 Men’s Asia Cup.

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Making rapid strides in international cricket is UAE’s U-19 skipper Aayan Afzal Khan, who has led his team into the semi-finals of the prestigious ACC U19 Men’s Asia Cup 2023. The team will now face-off against Pakistan in an attempt of making it to the tournament final at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday. 

Aayan attributes his exploits as an all-rounder to his stint with the DP World International League T20, where he rubbed shoulders with global stars in its first edition when he turned up for the tournament winners’ Gulf Giants. 
“By following multiple international cricketers during the first season, I got an understanding of the approach and process they follow and how they go about each situation. I have tried applying some of their principles to my game and it has certainly helped me grow as a cricketer,” Aayan expressed about his stint in the DP World ILT20 Season 1.

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He has been the cynosure of UAE’s performance in the U19 Asia Cup where he was awarded the player of the match twice in a span of three days. His 67 off 41 balls to help his team reach 320-7 in 50 overs against Japan while he played a crucial role in UAE’s win against Sri Lanka too – helping the team seal a berth in the semi-finals. 

Aayan’s mercurial rise in international cricket was fostered by the Desert Cubs Cricket Academy, and even before he could turn 17, Aayan made his debut for UAE in both T20s and ODIs. He also represented UAE in the ICC U-19 World Cup in 2022 where he won the player of the match award after helping his team beat the West Indies with a brilliant knock of 93 runs along with a wicket off his bowling.
He holds the distinction of being the youngest cricketer to feature in an ICC Men’s T20 World Cup match at the tender age of 16 years and 335 days, when the UAE played the Netherlands in a Group A first round match in the 2022 edition. 

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While the Gulf Giants Season 2 side boasts of the likes of global stars James Vince, Chris Lynn, Shimron Hetmyer, Carlos Brathwaite and Chris Jordan, Aayan Afzal Khan, the 18-year-old all-rounder from Sharjah, will be in focus as one of the emerging players in UAE particular after his success in the U19 Asia Cup, where UAE proved their mettle despite being considered as the underdogs in the tournament.
“I am happy with how my career is shaping, super excited and looking forward to yet another fascinating season with the Gulf Giants. Last season was absolutely magical and I absolutely can’t wait to get on with the upcoming edition. It can help boost my chances of finding a spot in one of the many leagues that take place around the world. Match winning performances will hopefully catch the eyes of scouts who are constantly on the look-out for young talent,” stated an eager Aayan. 

Underlining his personal goals in the upcoming edition of the DP World ILT20, Aayan said,“Ultimately, while you do want to do well, there is no point unless the team wins. I would like to go out there and do what the team [Gulf Giants] requires of me whenever they need it so that we can win games by executing our plans,” he said. “On a personal level, I would like to win the UAE Player of the Tournament Award (DP World ILT20 Blue Belt) because of how prestigious it is and the respect the winner draws on winning the award,” he concluded.

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The DP World ILT20 Season 2 will feature Australia’s World Cup hero David Warner, Andre Russell, David Willey, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Alex Hales, Shimron Hetmyer, Chris Jordan, Trent Boult, Nicholas Pooran, Chris Woakes and Maheesh Theekshana. More than 100 international and 24 UAE players will feature in the tournament. 
The DP World ILT20 will begin on Friday, 19th January in Sharjah with a clash between the Giants and Sharjah Warriors. The tournament final will be staged at the iconic ‘Ring of Fire’ Dubai International Stadium on Saturday, 17 February.  

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Published December 16th, 2023 at 00:09 IST

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