Mohammed Wasim's star turn in Abu Dhabi T10 bodes well for UAE cricket
Batsman needs to be selected for national team as a priority, while Shakoor, Suri, Siddique's exploits show more than one UAE player-per team needs to be considered for future tournaments
August cannot come soon enough for UAE cricket.
That is when the national team are scheduled to return to competitive cricket, in a Cricket World Cup League Two tri-series against Scotland and United States.
It is also the first series currently in the diary when Mohammed Wasim will be eligible to play for the national team.
The breakout star of the Abu Dhabi T10 qualifies for international duty, as per the ICC’s three-year residency criteria, this summer.
As soon as he is available, he needs to be rushed straight into the national team, no questions asked. It feels like it could be a seminal moment for the game here.
Qualifying for the World Cup has always seemed like a long stretch. With just two qualifying places available at a 10-team competition in India in 2023, it is as good as impossible for a side like the UAE to make it.
And yet, with Wasim in tow? He is so good, it feels as though anything could be possible.
His brilliance in the T10 brought with it rave reviews. And rightly so.
The commentators reckoned he was the most crucial player in the champion side, Northern Warriors, along with the captain, Nicholas Pooran.
Consider that for a moment. Pooran is arguably the best player in the four-season history of T10 cricket, and Wasim was mentioned in the same breath.
Ahmed Raza, the UAE captain, is excited. He described Wasim as a “gun player proving his worth on the biggest stage,” and said he “can't wait to have him in” the dressing room.
Let’s hope Pakistan were not paying too much attention to the T10. Or else they might think to nip in and make Wasim one of their own. He certainly would not look out of place in their side. And that was, at one stage of his life, his dream, too.
Lumping the whole future of UAE cricket onto the admittedly broad shoulders of Wasim might seem a little harsh.
If this season of T10 proved anything, it is that he will not have to bear the burden of expectation alone.
UAE cricket is awash with highly talented players. The 2021 campaign of T10 should be remembered as the one when they announced themselves.
Abdul Shakoor started it. The Sharjah-born and raised wicketkeeper is scarcely even on the fringes of the national team any more, given the emergence of Vriitya Aravind as one of the brightest young talents in the game here, as well as the fact Mohammed Boota is centrally contracted.
Yet he stole the show on the opening night of the T10, with his unbelievable 28-ball 73 for Maratha Arabians against the eventual champions, Northern Warriors.
Chirag Suri sparkled for Bangla Tigers. Rohan Mustafa – wardrobe malfunctions notwithstanding – showed why he had been entrusted with the vice-captaincy for Team Abu Dhabi. Sultan Ahmed was thrifty for Qalandars. Zahoor Khan was characteristically magnificent for Deccan Gladiators.
“These things don’t go unnoticed,” Suri said.
“You create your own opportunities. In the last tournament, I started batting at No 9, below Liam Plunkett. Then I came in and hit a couple of sixes when the situation required it, then the team trusts you.
“They started batting me at No 5, No 6, and now, luckily enough, they are backing me in an even higher position.
“It is all down to the players. If you can put in some good performances whenever you get your opportunity, we will get noticed.”
Should the T10 teams have more UAE players in their line ups than the bare minimum of one? Of course they should.
Even simple accounting says that would make sense. Why spend money on air fares for club-standard players from the UK, Bangladesh and Afghanistan when there are reams of players in domestic cricket worthy of selection?
But at least the players who have made it so far have proved they deserve it.
They have had to fight their way past the stigma of being a UAE player, of being that selection coaches have foist upon them against their better judgment because of the rules of the competition.
Even if the rule is retained that there needs to be only one UAE player per XI, that should only be a guide.
Northern Warriors won the final with three UAE players in their side. Two of them, Wasim and Junaid Siddique, had been key components of their title win.
And Suri is correct. Their achievements will not go unnoticed. Not least because Robin Singh, the coach of the champions, is also the national team boss. How optimistic he must be feeling about the future right now.
Updated: February 7, 2021 02:23 PM