Two matches into the World Cup and the UAE may have its first batting superstar. Shaiman Anwar has carted the bowlers of Zimbabwe and Ireland, showing a fearless array of strokes and an impish, unflinching atitude that will endear him to many.
Upon completing a brazen hundred at the Gabba against the Irish, to follow up his 67 against Zimbabwe, Anwar even struck a pose of the kind spectators have become familiar with from the West Indian Chris Gayle, arms aloft and chest puffed out. Anwar may not have been doing this to emulate Gayle, merely showing the sort of unbridled enthusiasm for hitting and scoring that is the preserve of genuine talents.
Anwar's partner at the other end for most of his century was Amjad Javed, who contributed his own spritely 42 in a stand that thoroughly frustrated Ireland's captain William Porterfield. Knowing his team-mate and the confidence that ebbs and flows through his game, Javed expects that the world will see and hear much more of Anwar before this tournament is out.
"He is very dangerous. Once he starts scoring he will score big runs," Javed said. "[Shaiman] is one of the best players we have in our team. On his day he can really score quick runs for us, we have seen it. I told him we have to play our natural games, doesn't matter that we have lost six or seven wickets. "Once we started a counter attack on them, they were leaking the runs. We kept going, eight or 10 runs per over, and it helped us."
The most vivid example of Anwar's effect on bowlers took place against Kevin O'Brien, who found himself drawn into a duel outside off stump that was won conclusively by the batsman. Anwar's movement across the crease had O'Brien spearing the ball ever wider, resulting in a series of wides and boundaries that had the allrounder withdrawn from Ireland's attack for the final over of the innings.
While Ireland's wicketkeeper Gary Wilson said O'Brien had not "taken a backward step", Javed spoke frankly of the exchange and his delight at seeing Anwar unsettle an opponent in such a manner. "Last 10 overs we scored 100 runs so definitely he [Kevin O'Brien] was pissed off," Javed said. "He is bowling at you, you are moving across to the offside, and he is not a bowler who has that much pace. He is not 150-plus, he is just 120-130. Shaiman was set and he was just trying to take runs."
Though the UAE could not finish off Ireland due to a few missed chances, and some fine batting by Wilson and O'Brien, Anwar's display will linger in the memory. It provided yet another example of how the game's second tier is catching up, and why moves to limit their opportunities would seem most unfortunately timed.
"If we are getting good games against the Test-playing nations and good exposure, then definitely the boys will learn from their mistakes," Javed said. "In a big tournament like this, suddenly you are playing in front of TV, and you drop a catch then suddenly the morale goes down.
"I think ICC should see the performance of Associates in this tournament and then decide whatever they want to do. They have to introduce more teams to the World Cup. They should increase the teams."
Increase the teams, and encourage the Anwars.