UAE teenager Vaishnave Mahesh thrilled to break record of her hero Rashid Khan

Leg-spinner set a new best that will take some beating as national team won T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier in Malaysia

Vaishnave Mahesh celebrates a wicket with UAE captain Chaya Mughal. Photo: ICC
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When Vaishnave Mahesh found out she had broken a record previously held by her hero, she did not know how to feel.

The UAE leg-spinner had just set a new mark that is unlikely to be broken any time soon – if ever.

In the national team’s win over Malaysia at the T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier last week, she became the youngest player to reach 50 wickets in T20 internationals.

She did not just snatch the record, either. She obliterated it. Aged 16 years and 262 days, she shaved nearly three years off the previous best, that of Rashid Khan.

“When we finished the first innings against Malaysia, the manager told me I had achieved 50 wickets,” Vaishnave said of a game in which she took 2-12.

“Then later, after the presentation ceremony, she told me I had surpassed the record of Rashid Khan and had become the youngest to achieve this feat.

“I didn’t know how to react. I was still processing that information. I didn’t know whether to feel happy or elated, but later on in the evening, after I spoke to my parents, I got a reality check. I felt really happy.”

Vaishnave debuted for the national team aged just 12 years and 31 days and has already played over 50 T20Is.

The ICC recently passed a rule saying players must be 15 before they can play international cricket, meaning her record will take some matching.

The previous holder, Rashid Khan, was a teenage prodigy himself and Vaishnave says he is her inspiration.

Vaishnave Mahesh debuted for the UAE national team aged just 12 years and 31 days and has already played over 50 T20Is. Photo: Asian Cricket Council

“Shane Warne still is my hero, but over a period of time it has become Rashid Khan,” she said.

“He is a modern day great, who has showed that a cricketer from Afghanistan, who were an Associate nation [when Khan started playing international cricket] can make it this big.

“Which league has he not played? He has really showed what a guy from an Associate nation can do. That was a huge inspiration for me.”

Vaishnave took 15 wickets in six matches as the national team won the competition in Kuala Lumpur to seal their place in the global Qualifier.

Away from the matches she had to stay on top of her accountancy, economics and business studies, and attended online classes while in Malaysia.

Her rise in cricket has been rapid since her parents enlisted her in an academy in Dubai aged 9, in which she was the only girl.

“She did not shy away,” said her father, Mahesh Hariharan.

“She was perfectly happy to play with the boys. Because she was comfortable, we were happy. At that stage, we never thought she would go this far.”

Her academy coach identified she had a natural aptitude for leg spin. When she was 10, took the wicket of a teenage boy at a tournament at which Anil Kumble, the Indian leg spin great, was the guest of honour.

Ahmed Raza, the UAE women’s team coach, endearingly terms Vaishnave a “cricket geek,” saying she has plenty of insight on the game already.

“When you have a one-to-one conversation with her about cricket or leg spin, you know she knows what she is talking about,” Raza said.

“She is always keen on learning. I have had really interesting chats with her, and she has really grown in the past couple of months.

“I started challenging her more, saying from a team perspective, she is our leg spinner so we want her taking wickets.

“Our spin attack is mainly dominated by off spinners. I told her the holding job is for them, and that if she is picking up wickets, we will win games.

“That is exactly what happened in this tournament, and I am proud of her. I expect so much from her because I know she can deliver that much.”

Updated: September 13, 2023, 4:37 AM