KT Exclusive: From salesman to UAE T20 World Cup hero, Waseem's fairy tale victory

Playing a match-winning role in a World Cup was not in Waseem's wildest dreams when he landed in Dubai six years ago



Muhammad Waseem (left) celebrates UAE's win with teammate Ahmed Raza. (AFP)
Muhammad Waseem (left) celebrates UAE's win with teammate Ahmed Raza. (AFP)
by

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Fri 21 Oct 2022, 9:51 AM

Last updated: Fri 21 Oct 2022, 10:13 AM

When Muhammad Waseem left his native Pakistan for Dubai in search of a job in 2016, he had no idea that he was going to play a big role in a historic victory for the UAE at a cricket World Cup.

Waseem, 28, was the toast of UAE's cricket fraternity on Thursday, having bowled the national team to victory in a T20 World Cup thriller against Namibia with a brilliant last over.

A hard-hitting opening batsman who can occasionally bowl his medium pacers, Waseem rose to the biggest challenge of his life on a cricket field, defending 14 runs in the final over to end the UAE's 26-year wait for victory in a World Cup match.

Waseem's last-over heroics came after he had set the platform for the UAE's total of 148 for three with a fighting half-century (50 off 41 balls) against a Namibian team that had stunned Sri Lanka in the tournament opener.

But playing a match-winning role in a World Cup was not in Waseem's wildest dreams when he landed in Dubai six years ago.

“I came here on a visit visa in 2016 and then returned to Pakistan. I came back one year later but playing cricket was not exactly my dream as I was looking for a job,” Waseem had told the Khaleej Times last year.

Nevertheless, he did hope to get a few club matches in the UAE on the back of his cricket resume featuring a few district-level matches in Pakistan.

“But that was about it. Getting into big time cricket was a dream I could not afford because my job as a sales executive demanded a lot from me. Still I managed to play some local UAE club matches in the night after long office hours in the day,” Waseem had said.

It was Mudassir Ali, a well-known cricket promoter in the UAE who gave Waseem a job in his company, Versatile Deployment Solutions, as well as a chance to play for his cricket club, Chargers.

"I picked him for my team after I saw him in a match in Ajman. I also asked him to work in my company," Ali recalled, while talking to the Khaleej Times moments after the Waseem-inspired UAE victory in the World Cup.

Muhammad Waseem with Mudassir Ali, his friend and mentor in Dubai. (Supplied photo)
Muhammad Waseem with Mudassir Ali, his friend and mentor in Dubai. (Supplied photo)

"But two months after he started working for my company, I asked him to stop. I only wanted him to play cricket because I saw the potential in him. It's really tough to do a job and then play cricket in the evening. So I asked him to stop and after that he was only playing cricket. If he had continued to work, he would not have reached where he has reached today," Ali said.

T10 glory

Waseem's ability to hit the ball hard in UAE's local matches soon landed him a deal at the Abu Dhabi T10, a star-studded franchise league that attracts players like Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Eoin Morgan and Liam Livingstone.

It was in that tournament that Waseem grabbed the limelight last year, helping the Northern Warriors win the title with 212 runs from nine matches at an incredible strike rate of 225.53.

A few months after his T10 heroics last year, Waseem made his UAE debut in a T20 International against Namibia in Dubai, earning a contract from the Emirates Cricket Board.

“To complete the formalities to be able to represent the UAE, I have had to make sacrifices. I have not visited my family in Pakistan for almost three years," Waseem recalled while talking to the Khaleej Times last year.

Those sacrifices have finally paid off with Waseem now earning a slice of World Cup glory for the UAE.

And for Mudassir Ali, Waseem's friend and mentor in Dubai, the victory tasted even sweeter because he was commentating on the match for a popular local radio station in Dubai when Waseem dragged the UAE over the line in the dramatic last-over finish.

"I was on air luckily when he was brought on for the last over. For me personally, it was a very happy and satisfying moment because I have seen him almost from his first day in club cricket in the UAE. And today, I was commentating when he got to bowl the most important over for the UAE in the World Cup," Ali said.

"But, you know, what he has achieved today, it's all because of his talent. He has remained grounded, and I really admire his discipline and hunger. He has worked very hard to reach this stage. I am just happy that I have been able to play a small part in his journey."

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