Basil Hameed lets his actions do the talking in seminal return to UAE side in Nepal

All-rounder named player of match for key role in beating Oman as national team claimed place in Asia Cup qualifier final

Basil Hameed, right, covers his mouth in celebration after taking a wicket for the UAE against Oman in the ACC Premier Cup semi-finals. Photo:  ACC
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As UAE’s players bolted for all corners of Mulpani Cricket Ground in wild celebration, the man who had just brought about their extraordinary win over Oman ran in a direct line towards the dressing room while cupping his mouth.

The gesture is an oft-used one by aggrieved athletes, and its meaning easy to decrypt: you have slighted me, but I will let my actions do the talking.

And well Basil Hameed might have felt wronged. The all-rounder had been one of the mainstays of the national team until February, after which he was inexplicably jettisoned, a casualty of the chaotic final weeks of the Robin Singh coaching regime.

Since Singh has gone, the national team’s results have improved markedly. So much so that forcing a way into the XI – even for a player of Hameed’s rich talent – is tricky.

The 31-year-old was recalled, 69 days and 18 matches since last lining up in UAE colours in a T20 international against Afghanistan, to face Oman in the ACC Premier Cup semi-final on Saturday.

He only got his chance because Mulpani is known to take turn, so his off-spin earned him the nod over seam bowler Sanchit Sharma. He knew well his chance might only be a fleeting one.

Twice he grasped his shot at redemption. First, he played a canny cameo at the end of the UAE innings, making 34 to help them to post 236.

His impact with the ball was spectacularly decisive. Tasked with bowling the 43rd over, he turned the game on its head. First, he had Ayaan Khan caught on the boundary rope by Rohan Mustafa.

Then, off the final delivery of the over, he induced an edge from the bat of Sandeep Goud which was taken sharply at the wicket by Vriitya Aravind.

It was the only point during the Oman run chase in which UAE had been ahead on Duckworth Lewis Stern. The fact the sides then went off because of an electrical storm, never to return, meant UAE were two-run winners, and had stolen a place in Monday’s final against Nepal.

“I was astonished by the performance,” Hameed said. “To be honest, I was under a lot of pressure. Coming back into the team when it has been doing so well means you have a lot of expectations on you.

“Being sitting outside the team for so many matches, then coming back and playing against such a tough opponent in an ODI, it was a lot for me.

“Even though I hadn’t played a match, everybody was very positive. The captain [Muhammad Waseem] was very supportive, as was the coach [Mudassar Nazar].

“I am extremely happy to contribute for the team. On another day, Oman would have won this match.”

Hameed said he had not been told the reason for him being dropped, but he is eager to return as a better player.

“I was surprised as well, but I honestly thought it was good to have a break at that point of time,” Hameed said.

“It gave me more courage as a cricketer. In the break, I got an opportunity to work a lot harder, and understand what I need to be doing better on and off the field.

“I have taken it in a positive way, but it is good to come back as well.”

He also said his cupping the mouth celebration was less a protest than a tribute to a mate.

The celebration is the trademark of Akif Raja, a UAE seam bowler who has also not been spotted since February’s T20I series against Afghanistan. Hameed says he adopted it to honour his friend.

“I copied it from Akif Raja because I love that celebration,” Hameed said. “When he took wickets in ILT20 he did that celebration, and I told him if I take a wicket I will copy his celebration.

“Obviously, when you come back as a cricketer you want to come back very strong. I was hoping I could score a 50 and take the team towards a win, so it was something coming from inside as well.

“But, to be honest, I was extremely happy with the way Akif performed, and I wanted to take something from him, so I took his celebration.”

Updated: April 30, 2023, 5:22 AM