Abu Dhabi T10: Mohammed Wasim, franchise cricket's latest star, rises to prominence amid personal tragedy

The 26-year-old batsman has announced himself on the big stage with a string of stunning performances for Northern Warriors

Mohammed Waseem goes down on his knees to send one over the boundary ropes in Northern Warriors’ victory over Team Abu Dhabi in the Abu Dhabi T10 at Zayed Cricket stadium on Monday, February 1, 2021. Courtesy Abu Dhabi T10.
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Mohammed Wasim’s transformation from unknown club player to franchise cricket star has come in spite of anguish at the death of an aunty he termed “like my mother”.

The 26-year-old batsman has announced himself on the big stage with a string of stunning performances for Northern Warriors in the Abu Dhabi T10, especially via an extraordinary salvo on Wednesday night.

Cricket fans were sent into a frenzy when Chris Gayle blazed a half-century in just 12 balls for Team Abu Dhabi in the second match of the day. It equalled the tournament record for fastest 50s, set by Afghanistan star Mohammed Shahzad.

And yet what followed the effort by the “Universe Boss” was even more astonishing. In the last match of the night, Northern Warriors chased the 98 they needed to beat Pune Devils in just 4.3 overs. Wasim was the star, as he fired a 12-ball half-century to match the record.

While Gayle and Shahzad are household names, Wasim is only just forging one for himself. He has yet to play representative cricket for the UAE, and will only become eligible for the national team on residency grounds this summer.

He is well known to all involved in the elite game here already, though. He has trained with the national team, captain Ahmed Raza has voiced his excitement at his imminent eligibility, while national team coach Robin Singh is also his boss at the Warriors.

His emergence to the wider world via the T10 has followed the death of his auntie Shameem, at the age of 45.

Wasim received the news ahead of the Warriors’ match against Team Abu Dhabi. He went on to score 76 in that fixture. Upon reaching his half-century, he tapped the black armband on his left biceps, and looked up to the sky.

“It is for my aunty, who has passed away,” Wasim said of the armband he has been wearing in each of the matches since.

“I wanted to go back [to Pakistan], but I have done this for her. She is like my mother. She did not have any children, and she really loved and cared for me.

“She always loved seeing that I had performed well in domestic cricket and everywhere. I think she was proud of what I have done.”

Northern Warriors were champions of the competition two years ago, and, with the likes of Nicholas Pooran and Rovman Powell in their ranks, are not short of batting firepower.

Wasim has more than held his own in that celebrated company, though. His strike rate of 274 runs per 100 balls exceeds that of each of the experienced West Indians. Pooran’s is 263, while Powell’s is 268.

And Wasim already has a T10 winners’ medal to his name, too. He was part of the Maratha Arabians’ squad last year, when he earned praise from their coach Andy Flower, even if he did not get a game in that event.

He is grateful for the chance to play alongside established internationals, and to pick the brains of Pooran.

“We have a great opportunity here to listen to these senior players,” Wasim said.

“They have played a lot of international cricket, and a lot of league matches. I am just trying to play my natural game, and luckily it has worked so far.

“I don’t have words to describe what I have done [in matching the record of Gayle and Shahzad] but I am really happy about it.”

Wasim’s feats have not gone unnoticed back at home, either. The opener originates from Mian Channu in Pakistan, and he says his performances in the T10 have met with everyone’s approval.

“I got so many messages, 545 messages from my home city,” Wasim said.

“When I got back on the internet and switched on my mobile, it was too much – going ping, ping, ping, ping, like that. I’m really happy about that, Alhamdulillah.”