'Why can't I hit like him?': Rohan Mustafa in awe of UAE batting partner Muhammad Waseem

Duo shared decisive 141-run alliance as national team celebrated T20 World Cup qualification with emphatic win over Ireland

UAE celebrate their win over Ireland in the T20 World Cup Qualifier final. Photo: ICC
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Bearing in mind Rohan Mustafa once declined a motorbike as a reward for being player of a tournament, it might be assumed he is not one for mementoes.

As such, it was a surprise to see him lovingly holding on to a stump in the wake of the UAE’s victory in the T20 World Cup Qualifier final against Ireland in Muscat on Thursday.

It turns out the UAE all-rounder, who hit the winning runs in the seven-wicket win against the Irish, does appreciate keepsakes. Just so long as he does not have to pay import duty.

“In big tournaments, like when we played in Namibia [in 2018], I do this,” said Mustafa, who took three wickets and was not out on 37 when victory was sealed.

“The semi-final was an important game. We had qualified for the World Cup, but [the groundstaff] said no, and that I had to take it after the final.

“I don’t keep balls or things like that, but I do when the tournament is really big for us. I take them to Pakistan now. Last time I went I took 110kgs of trophies, because there is no space to keep it.

“I have a big home in Pakistan, Alhamdulillah, so I keep these things there.”

Mustafa had the best view in the house of another remarkable knock by Muhammad Waseem. The UAE opener scored the second century of his 12-match T20 international career to lay the platform for UAE’s win.

In the process, he shared in a 141-run stand for the third wicket with Mustafa.

“To be honest, when you bat with him, sometimes you feel ashamed and think, 'why can’t I hit like him?'” Mustafa said.

“He was talking to me the whole time saying, ‘Please don’t give your wicket away. Because of you, I’m very confident. If I get out, you need to be there.’

“That was our plan. When he hits, I think he is one of the best hitters in Associate cricket. They had some off-spinners and he wanted to take the risks against them.

“I think he played outstandingly well. Credit to him, he took the match away from Ireland in a few overs.”

Winning the Qualifier means UAE will now be entered into a first-round group with Sri Lanka, Namibia and the second-placed side in the second global qualifier, which will be played in Zimbabwe later this year. Their matches will be played at Kardinia Park in Geelong on October 16, 18 and 20.

For the side’s two senior players, Mustafa and captain Ahmed Raza, it means a second trip to a World Cup. They were each in the UAE squad for the World T20 in Bangladesh in 2014.

Back then, UAE lost all their matches and failed to advance to the main phase of the competition. Raza is demanding better this time around.

“For myself and Rohan, the last time we played a World Cup, at that age it was more about just going to the World Cup,” Raza said.

“Now our mentality is that we want to go there and do well, make it to the Super 12, and cause some upsets over there.

“That mentality has definitely changed, and this group of people is special. We can really expect something very special from them come October in Australia.

“The first goal will be to make it to the Super 12, then do well from there on.”

As the defeated finalists in the tournament in Oman, Ireland will be pitched into a pool with West Indies, Scotland and the winners of the Harare qualifying event.

Andrew Balbirnie, Ireland’s captain, acknowledged the best team had won in Muscat, but said he was satisfied to be progressing to the main event.

“We have lot of positive aspects with how the week has gone,” Balbirnie said.

“We have qualified which was the main thing at the start of it. When you play a one-off final, you want to come out holding the trophy but I think the best team today won.”

Updated: February 25, 2022, 8:03 AM