UAE cricket prodigy Ali Naseer aims to make the most of ILT20 chance

Teen prospect cannot wait to go up against international cricket’s elite when he plays for Desert Vipers

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In some respects, Ali Naseer will be fulfilling his father’s dream this month when he plays alongside some of the stars of international sport, for a Glazer-owned team, wearing red and black.

The teen prodigy from Dubai is one of four home-based players in the Desert Vipers squad for the ILT20, which starts on Friday.

The fact they are owned by Lancer Capital, the parent company of Manchester United, will strike a chord with Naseer Sr.

Aamer is, after all, a keen fan of the Old Trafford club and first nudged his son in the direction of football rather than cricket. It was why Naseer was a relatively late starter in cricket, only taking to the sport at the age of 12.

“He tried to get me into football at an early age, but I wasn’t very good,” Naseer, 18, said.

“He said, ‘OK, fine – you can try cricket’. I was pretty good for my age, and that is where it started.”

To say he took to it quickly is an understatement. After immediately showing promise, his mother, Talat, enrolled him in training at the ICC Academy in Dubai.

By the time he was 15, he was already good enough to be selected to play for the UAE at the Under-19 World Cup in South Africa.

When he played again at the competition in the Caribbean two years later, he scored a rapid half-century against England, and later helped UAE claim a ground-breaking win against West Indies.

Less than a year later, he has been recruited to play alongside the likes of Alex Hales, Wanindu Hasaranga, Colin Munro and Tymal Mills in the UAE’s new T20 league.

Naseer found out the good news when he woke up in his room at his student accommodation in the UK.

He attends university in Leeds, where he dovetails studying sports business management with attempting to earn a place in the MCC Universities side.

When he opened the message from the Vipers, it was not the only reason he was eager to get back home.

“When I got [to the UK for his first semester] it was 2 degrees, and when I left it was -4 degrees and snowing,” Naseer said. “I love being back in Dubai.”

Now he could be just days away from bowling against the likes of Kieron Pollard or Nicholas Pooran. A daunting prospect for a raw teen? Naseer cannot wait.

“I’ll be nervous of course, but I think cricket is about enjoying the game,” Naseer, who was born in Pakistan before moving with his family to Dubai when he was aged four, said.

“I would just go out there and have fun, and just enjoy myself.

“As of now, all of us UAE players are a mystery. That can play to our advantage, as they won’t immediately know how to play us, or how to bowl to us. It is a good opportunity to make a name for ourselves.”

Mudassar Nazar, the former Pakistan international who coached Naseer at both ICC Academy and with UAE U19s, reckons his former charge is primed to make an impression.

“He likes to get on with it, and sometimes he can be rash,” Nazar said.

“But if I were to pick one guy from the U19 squad, he would be the one. So much so, that I feel that if he were in Pakistan, and coming through the academy system, he would have played for Pakistan [already].”

Naseer is keen to catch the eye for reasons other than just to help the Vipers excel. The UAE national team will play two crucial World Cup League Two tri-series in short order after the conclusion of the ILT20.

They need to revive their World Cup qualifying prospects, and Naseer hopes to be part of the solution.

“If I have a good tournament, I could be knocking on the door of the UAE men’s team,” he said.

“I know they have World Cup qualifiers coming up, which they need to win. I’m hoping to be in that team.”

Updated: January 11, 2023, 2:44 AM