The DP World International League T20 has given the leading players of the UAE the chance to advertise their wares to potential suitors in other franchise leagues around the world.
Given that three of the sides in the competition are run by Indian Premier League franchise-owners, a ticket to the biggest league of all is no longer beyond the realms of possibility. Impress in the ILT20, and they could not fail to be noticed.
Just one UAE player to date has been recruited to the IPL. Back in 2017, Chirag Suri was part of the Gujarat Lions squad in India, although he did not make the starting line up for any of the side’s matches in their final campaign as a replacement team.
Many of the home-based players had unofficial attachments with IPL sides when it was exiled to the UAE for safety reasons during Covid, chiefly as net bowlers.
Zahoor Khan, for one, impressed while with Mumbai Indians in their Covid bio-bubble in Abu Dhabi in 2020.
As such it was no surprise when Robin Singh, who juggles coaching the UAE national team and the various incarnations of the MI franchise, snapped up Zahoor ahead of the first ILT20.
Robin had more valuable intel ahead of the first season of the new competition, too, hence he moved straightaway to recruit Muhammad Waseem.
Each have repaid the faith many times over already in the competition. Waseem, most spectacularly, when he laced 86 in a brutal 44-ball assault in MI Emirates’ thrashing of Desert Vipers last time out.
Waseem possesses the sort of talent with the bat that is much coveted in T20 franchise cricket – the IPL included.
The issue of IPL involvement is blurred for many of the UAE’s leading cricketers, though, on account of their passports. While Zahoor and Waseem represent UAE in international cricket, they are both Pakistani citizens.
Since 2008’s Mumbai terrorist attacks, the IPL has effectively barred the involvement of Pakistani cricketers in the league.
The Indian ownership of five of the ILT20 franchises is part of the reason there are no Pakistan internationals involved in it, either.
Waseem himself would not be drawn on whether he can foresee himself in the IPL in future, only saying he hopes the new UAE competition leads to more opportunities elsewhere.
“I believe that my performance in the season so far has been good and I will keep doing better,” Waseem said.
“I hope that I will get more opportunities to play in the future.”
His assault at the top of the innings against Desert Vipers stunned the side who had been the most impressive outfit in the ILT20 to date.
Tom Moody, the two-time World Cup winning coach of the Vipers, said “both the openers [Waseem shared 141 in 12.3 overs with Andre Fletcher] batted extremely well” allowing MI to post a total that was “way beyond a par score for that surface”.
Waseem said it was “surely one of my best performance so far,” and compared it to the century against Ireland which took UAE to the T20 World Cup Qualifier title in Oman last year.
“We had to chase 160 and we were 15 for two,” said Waseem, who is ranked No 14 in the ICC ratings for batters in T20I cricket.
“Me and Rohan [Mustafa] chased the score, I hit a 112, and UAE won, so it was a special performance for me.”
Waseem has been glad to have his family to watch him from the stands in the ILT20 matches, and is particularly grateful to wife Sana for her support.
“My family and friends are very happy and they are excited to see me continue my form with the MI Emirates,” he said.
“They believe and keep motivating me whether I perform good or not, especially my wife. She motivates and supports me at every stage of my life.”