It is with good reason that Alishan Sharafu has been tipped by many as a future star of UAE batting.
He became the third youngest player ever to feature for the senior national team when he debuted in a T20 tournament in Oman in February, a month after turning 17.
Even lockdown has barely slowed his progress. He scored an 83-ball 155 in an age-group competition last month, breaking his own record highest score in the process.
And then he razed senior-level bowlers in making a T10 hundred – something that none of the international stars of the Abu Dhabi T10 have managed yet in four seasons of that competition – in Ajman last week.
But the future had to wait on Tuesday morning when the schoolboy had to sit an English exam, a few hours after being named man of the match in a game in the new Dream 11 Emirates D20.
“The exam wasn’t too bad,” Sharafu said. “The school gave me consideration so I was able to start an hour late.
“I got home at 2am, and didn’t get to sleep till 3am, so I had told them I would not be able to see anything on the paper. In the end I was able to concentrate OK.”
Because of his cricket, Sharafu often misses time from school, but has extra tuition to ensure he will be well prepared for his final exams at the start of next year.
His teachers at Our Own High School in Al Warqa, Dubai have been understanding given his promise on the sports field.
On Monday night, he had scored 48 not out to win the game for ECB Blues, the UAE development team, against Dubai in the new, livestreamed T20 competition.
His innings will have impressed Robin Singh, the UAE coach who is in charge of the ECB side for this competition.
“He has been telling me to try to bat through the innings, whenever I get a chance,” Sharafu said of Singh’s influence.
“Yesterday, he told me the same thing: go out there, finish the innings, then come back.
“We have a young side, which is nice because we have a lot of energy. We can save an extra few runs on the field. Plus we have some seniors who guide us around.
“Whoever it is, whenever you get your opportunity you have to take that responsibility. You have to play the same role as the seniors from the national side.”
Sharafu’s development into one of the most destructive hitters in the domestic game contrasts with the start he had in the sport.
Obaid Hameed, a one-time UAE international player who moved into coaching when he was 22, recalls the first time he was Sharafu as a 10 year old.
“Ali has been with me since the first day the academy started way back in 2013,” said the founder of the Dubai-based Cricket School of Excellence.
“He started playing proper, hard-ball cricket at the academy when he was 10. I remember the first day clearly, his dad brought him, and said he would love him to play some hard ball cricket.
“He was a chubby kid, really, really shy. I asked him what he did, and he said: ‘I bowl. I bowl fast.’
"And he was actually pretty fast for a 10 year old. From there, I saw something really special in him.”
Soon after, the youngster’s ability to clear the fence with the bat became apparent.
“Ever since I was young I’ve always loved hitting sixes,” Sharafu said.
“I’ve always been an aggressive kind of batsman. I used to watch AB de Villiers bat quite a lot, and he could hit a six to any side of the ground.
"That was what I wanted to do, but more recently I’ve been watching Virat Kohli.
“He is a fighter, and gets his team out of tough situations, and tries to get them over the line.”
Hameed believes his protege’s six-hitting ability could make him a candidate for a place in some of the world’s biggest franchise leagues in the future.
“Ali was a special one from day one,” coach Hameed said.
“He has had his ups and downs, but I knew that one day he could make it big, and even now I hope that he does, having achieved so much by the age of 17.
“I think he is one of the few players who has the potential to put their name in the hat going forward for international leagues, including the IPL.
“He has that potential, because of the way he plays his cricket, and because he is a really cool, nice kid.
“He is always happy to help out the youngsters at our academy, and is always there for people. He is a good team man.
“You need all these attributes to make it to the top, not just the talent side. It is a proud moment for us to see what he is achieving and we wish him all the best.”