Bears England Under-19s batter Hamza Shaikh has thanked his Warwickshire teammates for their support while fasting during the Club’s pre-season tour to Abu Dhabi.

The season warm-up event in the UAE – where Warwickshire beat four other First Class Counties and an Abu Dhabi XI to win the tournament – fell during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Shaikh, from Aston in Birmingham, fasted throughout the two-week trip which meant he didn’t eat or drink anything during daylight hours, while also dedicating time for prayer and reflection.

It made training and playing for the 17-year-old especially challenging given Abu Dhabi’s 30-degree heat.

Shaikh has praised his fellow Bears for their support along with the Club’s backroom staff for making special arrangements for him to break fast and eat at night, plus allocating time for religious observation.

“All the players and coaches showed an interest in what I was doing,” said Shaikh. “They checked in on how I was feeling, if I’d eaten enough, if I needed five or 10 minutes to chill and sit in the shade.

“We had a couple of group sessions in the evening. They were timetabled to finish when the fast broke which was brilliant. They were conscious of the timing of sunset and that I would need to break fast and take time to pray.

“And we had two evening games that were paused so people could break their fast on the pitch with some water, dates and banana. That was really important to give us a bit of energy we needed at that point.

“I couldn’t really have asked for more support and everything that Warwickshire gave me.”

Warwickshire Academy graduate Shaikh capped a memorable 2023 – in which he made five senior appearances in the Metro Bank One Day Cup – with England selection for the Under-19s 2024 World Cup.

He also starred for England U19s in a Quadrangular Series in India at the end of 2023, top scoring in the tournament with 464 runs.

Hamza joined players last week at Warwickshire Cricket Foundation’s Chance 2 Shine Ramadan League which gives those observing Ramadan an opportunity to compete after dark at the Edgbaston Cricket Centre.

“The Ramadan League here is fantastic,” added Hamza, who also broke fast with players at the event. “The Club opens its Cricket Centre late at night, from 9pm till 1am, for people to play after breaking their fast. Without it, many would find it hard while fasting to play cricket during Ramadan.

“Fasting is an inner self-belief thing for me. It’s a challenge to be disciplined in that month, to focus on yourself, think at how we’re privileged because people in other countries being thirsty or hungry is the norm.

“But it shouldn’t be a barrier to playing cricket and thanks to the Midnight League it isn’t. It’s great to see everyone enjoying themselves and the standard of play is decent.”

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