On Khurram Khan’s many previous visits to Melbourne as a flight purser, he stayed across the road from the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Also a cricketer, Khan deliberately avoided going into the world’s largest cricket arena.
“I never walked into the stadium, because I always wanted to play there. I always thought, if I’m going into the stadium it should be to play,” Khan said.
That finally came true this week.
He was practicing there on Tuesday, preparing to play for the United Arab Emirates against Australia the next day, in a warmup for the Cricket World Cup, where he will be the tournament’s oldest player.
Khan is 43, and the UAE vice-captain.
In December, he eclipsed Sanath Jayasuriya by almost four years to become the oldest player to score a one-day international century when he made 132 not out against Afghanistan in Dubai at 43 years, 162 days.
“The last couple of years have been the best in my life, since I have been playing cricket,” said Khurram, who sometimes kept up his fitness by doing pushups between in-flight meal services.
Coach Aaqib Javed, part of the Pakistan squad that won the 1992 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, is a year younger than Khan, and in awe of the veteran.
“I haven’t seen anyone playing like Khurram in their 40s,” Javed said. “He’s the best 43-year-old batsman I have ever seen ... the perfect role model for any youngster.”
The Indian Premier League’s temporary shift to the UAE last year presented Khan with a chance to feature in practice games against Australia’s Glenn Maxwell and other international players.
The Pakistan-born Khan regards today’s warmup match against the world’s No. 1-ranked team as the best possible way to prepare for their tournament opener against Zimbabwe at Nelson, New Zealand, in nine days.
“I don’t think it’s going to get harder than this. You start on top, and it’s all downhill,” he said. “It’s time to deliver.”