As three members of Yorkshire’s first-team playing squad and backroom staff prepare to bring Ramadan to a close during the next few days, Kabir Ali has spoken of the rewards and challenges the Muslim holy month brings for cricketers.
Ali, one of Yorkshire’s two assistant coaches, plus Adil Rashid and Pakistan overseas fast bowler Haris Rauf have all been undertaking Ramadan since the start of April.
One of the five pillars of Islam, the fourth in fact, is fasting.
Of course, not eating and drinking between dawn and sunset when training and, in particular, playing can cause challenges for Muslims.
Though the rewards are so much greater, said the former England fast bowler: “It’s hard work, especially when you’re playing, that you can’t drink water and eat food.
“But it’s definitely so rewarding.
“When you have that sip of water in the evening, it tastes amazing. And performing at this time is amazing as well.”
Fasting is just one of the pillars of Islam. The others are possession of faith, prayer, charitable giving and pilgrimage.
Ramadan’s start and end dates are never set in stone because the Islamic calendar is purely based upon the lunar cycle, meaning the celebratory feast of Eid will come either tomorrow or Monday.
“It’s a blessed month,” continued Ali. “We as Muslims look forward to this month.
“As soon as this month is over, we will be praying to see this month again the following year.
It is not just fasting, there are other things for Muslims to follow such as refraining from the use of bad language. There are also concessions, such as travelling and pregnancy, meaning not everyone has to fast.
“I think there’s more understanding of it now within different communities who aren’t undertaking it, more education behind it,” said Ali. “It’s nice that people do understand it.
“The (Yorkshire) boys have been brilliant with me.
“They have been so supportive with little comments like, ‘You’re doing amazing, you’ve got this’. Especially at the end of the day, it gives you that little boost.
“They’ve tried not to eat in front of me, which is nice of them. It really doesn’t bother me, and it’s unavoidable at lunch during games. But it’s a nice touch, and I appreciate it.”
Ali continued: “I always found that fasting makes you concentrate that bit more on the field.
“The first four or five days are the most difficult because your body is getting used to it. But that will be the same with any sudden change of routine for anyone. Then, you are more switched on.
“Speak to guys like Hashim Amla and Moeen (Ali, Kabir’s cousin).
“You might be a little bit more fatigued. But the mind is a very strong thing.”
When Ramadan comes around again next year, there will be a plethora of league cricketers, not just professionals, who fast whilst playing. Some may be doing it for the first time.
And Ali advises: “It’s vitally important that when you open the fast in the morning, you hydrate well and get good food in you. That can be oats, porridge, stuff like that, so that you can get a slow release of energy through the day.
“I can eat three or four dates and a pot of yoghurt, which will see me through the day. That’s what I’ve been doing for the last three or four years. But everybody is different.”
There is also, pardon the pun, food for thought for clubs who host games during Ramadan and want to host and entertain players and families afterwards.
“Days of spending time at the club after games, a lot of that has gone now,” added Ali.
“When I started playing club cricket, it was a tradition that you went to have a drink with the opposition. It doesn’t happen as much nowadays.
“But for those who still have people at the club through the night, it would be good for them to put on food at the right time of an evening to cater for the Muslim players and their families.”