Khushi pleased by Essex debut, despite absence of parents
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
The only downside of Feroze Khushi’s memorable Essex debut was that his parents could not be present at locked-down Fortress Chelmsford.
They have always been supportive – dad Mo has been his life-long, go-to coach; mother Nus was an uncomplaining chauffeur, ferrying the young boy the length and breadth of the country as cricket took root.
But that was not enough for them to gain admission to witness Khushi’s valuable contribution to the nail-biting Bob Willis Trophy victory over Kent this week.
“My mum was saying the other day that she was going to come over and watch,” said Khushi. “I had to tell her that they weren’t letting anyone in, not even parents, not even if it was their son’s first game.
“Obviously every parent would want to be there, but the situation we are in, they couldn’t. But I knew they were watching every ball I was facing on the live stream.
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“They would be praying for me and doing what parents do. It was an incentive for me to do well because I knew I had a lot of family watching – cousins, uncles, aunties.”
Khushi helped add 86 for the fourth wicket with Sir Alastair Cook as Essex chased down 202 to win, albeit by just two wickets.
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“It was a special moment, just being able to share a match-winning partnership with him,” said the 21-year-old.
“Dreams do come true. He’s someone I’ve looked up to since I was about 10. From receiving age-group trophies from him to actually batting with him in the first team, I didn’t think I ever thought that would happen coming up the ranks to be a professional cricketer.
“Having Chef [Cook] there encouraging me and coming down the wicket literally every other ball and telling me what to focus on, what the next ball was likely to be, was really special.”
Khushi’s 45 included seven fours, three in one over from young Kent spinner Marcus O’Riordan, and two in another from Ivan Thomas, before the seamer became the scourge of Essex with four quick wickets, including that of Khushi.
“My job is to put the bad balls away and pick off anything short,” he said. “I needed to get the first few ticked off, take one ball at a time. Every boundary gave me a confidence boost and helped me settle down.
“I know that while I am making the step up into the first team, bowlers will try and catch me out with the short ball, so the last few weeks in training I’ve been taking them on and getting in good positions to play the ball.”
The result was that the sharply despatched pull became a hallmark of his innings, with Khushi adding: “It’s now one of the shots I play pretty well. The cut is another of my strengths, and anything off my legs I can clip away. And anything straight I like to get down and hit back past the bowler.”
Khushi went into this abbreviated season knowing it could be make-or-break for him, saying: “I knew there was an opportunity for me with Ravi [Bopara] having left and Dan [Lawrence] potentially being with England. But other guys were also fighting for those positions.
“I knew I had to go into every training session and give 100 per cent – like I always do – and train with intensity and bat well. I’ve become much more positive in my game and I’m taking on the bowlers more and I’m feeling much more confident.
“I’ve been given my chance and hopefully contributing to this week’s win will be enough to get me into the team for the next game [at home, again behind closed doors, against Surrey tomorrow].”
In the longer term, the son of cricket-loving parents would like to be a role model for his East London community.
“I want to inspire young kids to take up the game,” added Khushi. “Hopefully my innings will have helped more guys get to know who I am and how I got here.
“I’m the only British Pakistani in the Essex team at the moment, and there aren’t many Asian cricketers right now on the county circuit, so it’s really nice to be able to try and do something about it.”