Exclusive: Waseem's fairy tale journey from Chichawatni to Abu Dhabi T10
Waseem hit the headlines on Monday with a stunning knock at the top of the order for the Northern Warriors
If not for Malik Ghulam Mustafa’s passion for the game, Waseem Muhammed, who hit a match-winning 76 off 34 balls for the Northern Warriors in the Abu Dhabi T10 on Monday, would still have been playing club cricket in Chichawatni, a small town in the Punjab province of Pakistan.
Waseem hit the headlines on Monday with a stunning knock at the top of the order for the Northern Warriors against Team Abu Dhabi in a Super League clash of the star-studded T10 tournament.
Opening the innings, Waseem stunned the Team Abu Dhabi bowlers with his brilliant stroke-play as he dominated his 121-run first wicket partnership with West Indies international Lendl Simmons (37, 25 balls), helping the Northern Warriors chase down 124 in a thrilling last-ball finish.
It was only the second match of the tournament that Waseem got the chance to open the innings.
And Waseem is at his best when he plays as an opener for MGM, a local club owned by the UAE-based Pakistani businessman Malik Ghulam Mustafa.
“I was pushing him to tell the (Northern Warriors) team management that he has always played as an opener. I just wanted them to give him a chance to play as an opener. I knew that if he got a chance, he would be a game changer,” Mustafa told Khaleej Times.
It was almost five years ago that Waseem’s life-changing moment came when Mustafa saw him play in a club match in Lahore.
“He was playing in Pakistan, mostly in Chichawatni. We saw him in a match in Lahore. So we offered him visa and that’s how he came here,” Mustafa said.
Like the 15 other players in Mustafa’s club, Waseem’s full-time job is cricket.
“He plays only cricket. I have given him a contract and many other players as well, they only play cricket for my club in local matches here. Asif Khan is another player from my club who is now in the Pune Devils squad at the Abu Dhabi T10,” said Mustafa who also played cricket in Pakistan before moving to the UAE in 2011 to start his career as a businessman.
“I do it because I have played cricket and this game is my passion.”
From scoring big runs in local club cricket to hitting international bowlers for fun in a high profile franchise league featuring Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Amir, Waseem’s been truly a fairytale journey.
What especially impressed the pundits on Monday was his ability to bat under pressure while chasing a big total.
“This is the special quality of this player. And it’s because of this special quality that he deserved to play in a big event like the Abu Dhabi T10. And he also deserves to play for the UAE,” said Mustafa.
After his match-winning knock on Monday, Waseem showed his gratitude to the UAE coach Robin Singh for helping his game.
But the 26-year-old batsman is still not eligible for UAE selection.
“He is already training with the UAE team. He needs to complete some formalities as per the ICC rules to be eligible to play for the national team. I am hopeful that by July this year, he will be able to wear the UAE jersey,” Mustafa said.
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