Alishan Sharafu hopes to produce 'something special' in second shot at U19 World Cup

Eighteen-year-old batsman is thriving in Emirates D50, after an eventful year that started with testing positive for Covid on the day of his ODI debut

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Given the princely form Alishan Sharafu has been in during the Emirates D50, opponents might be excused for thinking their best plan against him is to bowl for run outs at present.

The ECB Blues batsman is second in the run-scorer charts in the new domestic 50-over competition, with 267 in four matches, at a strike rate touching 99 per 100 balls.

That tally looked likely to swell further when he reached 43 against Abu Dhabi on Wednesday afternoon, only for him to hit his 29th ball straight to a fielder and run. The ensuing run out might have stalled his run spree, but likely only briefly.

His dominance over opposition bowlers is nothing new. He is already one of the most dominant batsman in the domestic game, and is a likely starter the national team, despite unprecedented competition for places in the batting line up.

Which is all the more remarkable, given he is still just 18, and will still be eligible for the Under 19 World Cup at the start of next year.

The UAE have had their qualification for that competition confirmed without playing a game, after the pandemic led to the cancellation of the Asian qualifying event.

“Based on guidelines approved by the ICC development committee and the ICC board, the three events [Asia, Americas, and East Asia-Pacific] cannot be staged,” an ICC statement said.

“Therefore, Canada, UAE and Papua New Guinea will all progress to the ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup 2022 on the basis of them securing the most wins in the last five U19 qualifying events in each respective region.”

UAE's #6 Alisan Sharafu play a shot. Courtesy ICC

It means a trip – most likely – to the Caribbean for the country’s leading young players, early in 2022. And for those few like Sharafu who are eligible for another crack at the age-group event, a chance to erase the memory of their disappointing end to their last one.

At the start of last year, UAE missed out on the chance to advance to the knock out phase of the World Cup after rain curtailed their run-chase against hosts South Africa.

“We were looking forward to the qualifiers that were supposed to happen, but then the news came through that we had qualified without playing that tournament,” Sharafu said.

“Hopefully we can do something special there. South Africa was quite heartbreaking.

“It was not how we wanted it to finish. But everything happens for a reason, so maybe there will be something better this time.”

The players are likely to better equipped to play at a 50-over World Cup now, given the increased volume of that format being played.

The Emirates D50 has doubled the amount of competitive 50-over events the leading players get to play. Previously, the long-running Bukhatir League had been the only event of that duration.

Alishan Sharafu in action during the ongoing Emirates D50. Antonie Robertson / The National

Sharafu says he is enjoying the abundance of longer-form fixtures.

“I had a dry patch for a couple of months before this tournament, so I want to make the most of it when I am in good touch and get some runs under my belt,” he said.

“Domestic cricket is more of T20, but over the past one and a half years since Robin [Singh, the UAE coach] has been here, we have played 40 to 45 50-over games, and another 25 with the under-19s.

“I think that has helped a lot for all of us to improve our temperaments and the way we approach the game.”

With the national team due to return to action with T20 matches against Namibia and Ireland in Dubai next month, Sharafu could also be set to a return to senior duty.

That would be poignant, too. The last time he had a crack at the international game, against Ireland in January, he tested positive for Covid on the evening after his ODI debut – meaning he had to spend his 18th birthday in quarantine.

“It was hard, but these things happen,” Sharafu said.

“I tested positive, the games were cancelled, then after that, Abu Dhabi T10 happened so I was in the quarantine bubble for around 35 days in all.

“The whole of January I was in quarantine. It is something to remember that time for. It was an experience, and I learnt a lot as well.”

Updated: September 09, 2021, 9:55 AM