No PSL for UAE’s Muhammad Waseem but batsman makes flying visit to Bangladesh

National team captain heads for BPL for short T20 stint before returning for start of Cricket World Cup League 2

MI Emirates batsman and UAE captain Muhammad Waseem during the DP World International League T20 final against Dubai Capitals. Photo: ILT20
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The UAE’s leading cricketers all crave the chance to be franchise cricket global travellers. A couple of days after picking up a winner’s medal at the DP World International League T20, the country’s leading player is set to do just that – albeit very briefly.

Muhammad Waseem won the blue belt award for the best home player at the ILT20 for the second year running on Saturday night, for his exploits opening the batting for MI Emirates.

His tournament haul of 321 runs was the fourth best of any batter, and included a tone-setting 43 from 24 balls in the win over Dubai Capitals in the final.

Midway through the tournament, Islamabad United announced they had signed Waseem to play for them in the Pakistan Super League.

However, the short turnaround between the end of the ILT20 and the start of the UAE’s Cricket World Cup League 2 campaign in Dubai next week has ruled him out of playing for them.

By the time his national team duties conclude – the UAE have an ODI tri-series involving Canada and Scotland, then a bilateral T20I series against the latter – the PSL will have just two matches left.

Waseem is able to squeeze in a flying visit to the Bangladesh Premier League, though. The opener was drafted by Chattogram Challengers last year, but has yet to represent the franchise.

He has flown to Chittagong and is expecting to feature for the side in the last match of their league season. They are pushing for a place in the play-offs in Bangladesh’s T20 franchise competition.

Once he is done there, Waseem will return straight to Dubai to prepare for the start of League 2. The opening match of the tri-series against Canada at the Dubai International Stadium is on February 28.

Waseem’s previous franchise experience has mostly been confined to the UAE. He has winner’s medals from the Abu Dhabi T10 as well as the ILT20.

He was also a non-playing member of the Multan Sultans side who won the PSL when it was relocated to Abu Dhabi during the pandemic.

His exploits in the ILT20, as well as the fact he became the first player in the world to hit 100 international sixes in a calendar year in 2023, suggests he should attract the attention of franchises around the world.

That is a view backed by Nicholas Pooran, his captain at the title-winning MI Emirates.

“I expect franchises to take notice,” Pooran said in the aftermath of Saturday’s crushing win over Dubai Capitals in the final.

“Yes, he is a UAE player, but he is really good. He has been dominant and really aggressive.

“A lot of franchises should want him in their set up. He has a lot to offer. He is young, he can field and he is a really good team guy as well.

“I am expecting to see him in a lot of leagues, and expecting him to continue his form and improve.”

While Waseem continues to set the benchmark for home-based players in the ILT20, there was no shortage of performances from them during this campaign.

There was a minimum quota of four UAE players per squad, with two to be included per starting XI. The tournament rules were tweaked slightly ahead of the season so that franchises could include players who are yet to be fully eligible to play for the UAE.

Among that category of players, Usman Khan, Haider Ali and Mohammed Rohid – each of whom is aiming to qualify for the UAE on the ICC’s three-year residency criteria – shone.

UAE-raised players like Zuhaib Zubair, Aayan Khan and Alishan Sharafu all proved their worth on the big stage, too.

Waseem extolled the benefits of the ILT20 competition after accepting the WWE-style belt for being the standout local player.

“I’m very happy to have won the belt for the best UAE player for the second year in a row, but also happy for the UAE players who performed very well overall,” Waseem said.

“It's a great league especially for the local UAE players and am so happy to see them all do well.”

Five who thrived

Two spots per team were reserved for UAE players in the ILT20. Here are five who shone the brightest on the big stage, in addition to the peerless Wasim

Updated: February 19, 2024, 1:14 PM