Kolkata: When the organisers of Albond Abu Dhabi T10 League said late last year that there would be at least two UAE players per team, it was perceived more as an exercise to make up the numbers. However, the likes of Waseem Muhammed, Chirag Suri, teenager Alishan Sharafu or the bowlers have showed over the past 10 days that the UAE players were no misfits in the big league comprising some of the biggest names of franchise cricket.
Turning out for Northern Warriors, the 26-year-old Muhammed gave an awesome display of crisp hitting on Thursday to equal the T10 record of fastest half-century set by Chris Gayle in this edition and Mohammad Shahzad for Rajputs in the 2018 edition. Waseem hit seven towering sixes and three boundaries during his innings of unbeaten 56 off 13 deliveries. He hammered the attack so mercilessly that Warriors raced to the target against Pune Devils with more than half the overs to spare.
If Waseem’s performance grabbed the limelight because of the record, there were several professional performances - both with the bat and ball - to show that the products of this Associate Member country are extremely comfortable in the shorter formats. The Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), on their part, had resumed cricket after the pandemic with a D-10 tournament at the Dubai Sports City and followed it up with a T20 event late last year.
Apart from the UAE vice-captain Suri and Waseem, the likes of Abdul Shakoor, Zahoor Khan, Sultan Ahmed, Shiraz Ahmed and of course Sharafu proved their worth - playing their shots with such confidence in this edition that it won won praise from the global stars.
The likes of Zahoor Khan, Sultan Ahmed, Shiraz Ahmed, Rohan Mustafa, UAE skipper Ahmed Raza and Junaid Siddique have shown in bowling that they have the nerves to not only contain the run-flow but also get timely breakthroughs. Zahoor, the stocky UAE paceman, was called up by Mumbai Indians as a net bowler during the IPL 2020 in the UAE where he had apparently shared a few tips in gripping the dew-soaked ball for yorkers with Jasprit Bumrah, the Indian attacking lynchpin.
Earlier this week, Sharafu, who opened for Maratha Arabians against Team Abu Dhabi, displayed good temperament to emerge as the team’s topscorer with a breezy knock of 33. The confidence with which he executed the three sixes in that match proved that he can be groomed into a match-winner for franchise teams. ‘‘I was intially nervous but things fell into place after the first six. It was great to pick up something small from the top players and was a confidence-booster of sorts,’’ said Sharafu, whose team eventually failed to make the Qualifiers.
Arabians, last year’s champions, also gave an opportunity to a 16-year-old leg spinner Maroof Merchant last Wednesday against Team Abu Dhabi but unfortunately, he had to face the wrath of a rampaging Gayle on his debut. There are other promising youngsters like Aryan Lakra, the UAE Under-19 team captain, 18-year-old Vriitya Aravind, 20-year-old Karthik Meyiappan and 19-year-old Ansh Tandon, all of whom are promising and have been part of the different teams in this tournament.
For all the reputation that the UAE may have enjoyed as hosts of top-level franchise leagues like the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Pakistan Super League (PSL), teams have never considered UAE players worthy of a look-in. The only instance was when Suri was picked by Gujarat Lions for the 2017 IPL edition where he was signed up but he did not get a game. However, this T10 tournament may just change the perception about this bunch.