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Natural selection

Natural selection

Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Younus Khan, Umar Gul? Nope. Mohammed Aamir was Imran Yusuf’s favourite World Cup story.

The next Twenty20 World Cup takes place in May 2010 and I’m already looking forward to seeing which new left-arm quick we discover for the tournament.

In 2007, Sohail Tanvir emerged, admittedly on the wrong foot, out of nowhere (well, Rawalpindi, but near enough) to sling us to the final. A year later, he was named Best Bowler in the IPL. His rise from obscurity to stardom was as towering as the man himself – six feet, three inches. He hadn’t taken a single wicket in ten T20 domestic matches prior to the World Cup, but he looked fully at home in international cricket. What he couldn’t do once in 10 domestic games he did three times in four overs against Australia.

Similarly, 2009 saw the emergence of Mohammed Aamir. Seventeen years old, confident and composed, he bowled the first and last overs of the innings in a World Cup final without batting a long-lashed Punjabi eye. And he has smooth shiny hair to rival Shahid Afridi to boot!

So really, where have these guys come from? Is Pakistan’s much-maligned domestic system finally acting as a nursery for talent? Tanvir seems to have worked his way up through the system: he represented the Pakistan Academy on their tour of Bangladesh and put in superb performances against Australia A in a home ODI series. Similarly, Aamir went through Pakistan’s youth system, participating in U19 tours and tournaments and taking 55 first class wickets last season. It seems he was selected on the basis of a strong domestic season.

The answer is both yes and no.

Countless players have excelled on Pakistan Academy tours or won us U19 World Cups or taken every wicket going in a domestic season. But few make it to play for Pakistan and fewer still stick around and force us to remember their names.

Tanvir’s selection was actually a bit of a hunch: the powers-that-be liked the look of him, feeling he’d unsettle top class international batsmen with his action and swing, even though he hadn’t taken a wicket in 10 domestic games. Aamir’s story has a whiff of destiny about it: Wasim Akram saw him at a ‘pace camp’ in May 2007 and knew straight away he was the special one amongst special ones. Akram was actually quite gracious and modest on commentary when talking about Aamir. He would’ve been justified in shouting and screaming something like, ‘I made him! He’s my creation! He belongs to me!’

Akram, like the rest of us, is very excited by Aamir, and the admiration is mutual, with the youngster worshipping the former captain. If he gains weight in the right places and works on his fitness, he could go all the way. Pre-tournament talk that he was a thinking bowler, one who could work out a batsman, proved justified. Indeed, his first over in the final set the tone for our whole performance. It was calculated and planned, while still having a fresh, spontaneous potency. A 17-year-old bowling the first over of a World Cup final and taking a wicket maiden, the wicket being that of the player of the tournament: no wonder I called my brother the morning after the final to enquire if the whole thing had been a dream.

Where do we get these guys from? And how?

Our selection system has always been somewhat anarchic. As Imran Khan has pointed out, this is to be expected. It’s no different to politics and govenment: if you have strong institutions, the importance of personalities diminishes. With weak institutions, personality and leadership become very important. As captain, Khan was also essentially the chief-selector, something which, under his benevolent dictatorship, worked well in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Khan’s involvement shows that our system is realtively weak. Domestic cricket is not and has never been the best criterion to judge a player in Pakistan. Players such as Inzamamul Haq, Aaqib Javed and Waqar Younis were first selected not on the basis of the first class matches they’d played, but on that of a net session with the team and captain.

Javed Miandad came across Akram in 1984, practicing at a Lahore net with a youth team. Akram was 18. A few months later, Miandad insisted he come along and join the national team. The rest is cricketing history, glory, legend and Pepsi adverts.

Tauseef Ahmed similarly went from bit-of-fun-in-the-park cricket to international cricket, seemingly in one leap. Pakistan were having a training camp, and Miandad got a call from a friend urging him to try out a new off-spinner. Miandad agreed but he thought little of it until Tauseef bowled to him and immediately started beating his bat. That did it: Tauseef was selected straight away and took seven wickets on debut against Australia. Who knows – if he hadn’t beaten Miandad’s edge in the nets that day, he might never have played international cricket.

Hanif Mohammed tells a marvellous story about selection. After Imtiaz Ahmed hung up his gloves, Pakistan were at a loss as to who to have as the next wicketkeeper. Hanif’s brother Wazir was an outstanding talent spotter; he regularly pointed out talented youngsters to KCA President Muzaffar Hussain. One day he was walking on the street and he passed St. Patrick’s School. It had a low boundary wall, so Wazir watched a few deliveries. He saw a keeper pull of a smart stumping and was so impressed he told Hanif and Muzaffar to get in touch with the boy. The boy turned up at training, and they saw he had strong wrists and fingers – he looked the part. When asked to play, he looked
the part even more. He was a natural and he had been found. That boy was Wasim Bari: Pakistan’s greatest wicket-keeper.

One still wonders, however, about the thousands of Wasim Baris who played at schools with high boundary walls, the Inzamams that Imran never discovered, the Tauseefs who never had the chance to beat Miandad’s bat, and the Mohammed Aamirs who didn’t make it to Wasim’s pace camp.

We’re delighted to have Aamir, an astonishingly promising new left-arm fast-bowler, but as a lover of Pakistani cricket, one can’t help but wonder at all those who got away.


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62 Responses to “Natural selection”

  1. Dr. Asad Sadick, says:

    Very true. Aamir is a real, natural, left-arm pacer with a sound mind and a lot of confidence. We also need to work on Sohail Khan, as he has great talent too but has to be harnessed, particularly his run-up. Aamir is Wasim’s replacement.

  2. ghazanfar says:

    I Think Aamir is Playing his Own Game.Waseem Akram Should Train Him. Waseem Bahi Can Train To Irfan Pathan So He Should Train to this Young Guy.Akram is the Best He can Give Advice to Aamir but more than Advice is Traning.

  3. zafar says:

    Good luck for mr.Amir and I hope he will behave like a professional crickter and avoid the use of “protein powder”: as Mohammad Asif did it. I also hope he will not follow the the path of Sohaib Akhtar and he will respect himslef and his supporters. thanks

  4. Farid Ansari says:

    I think that its time that we should look for talent not in the streets but in some professional academies. The idea is that there should be cricket academies in all major cities which should offer subsidised cricket facilities to those who cant afford it. It shall sponsor the youngsters and pay the outstanding players some reasonable fee on a montyhly basis.

  5. Aries99 says:

    PCB need to conduct more “Spot the Talent” type of camps in all corners f the country for fast bowlers as well as batsmen, spinners and wicketkeepers. Experts in their fields needs to be available to spot the talent and then there should be a process to groom them by sending them to various academies. Those selected should get some monthly financial assistance as well from PCB.

    We also need to conduct more school level and college and under 16 and 19 tournaments on National level and have an arrangement with a TV channel to show these matches, at least the semi finals and final live on TV with good prizes and media exposure of these young players. Only teams finishing in top 4 at district level should qualify for the City level tournament and same goes for the Provincal and National level tournaments.

  6. Wajidd Hashmi says:

    Yes I agree that Pak produces outstanding talent from nowhere, especially in the fast bowling depatment, I beleive as Brazil is natural to football, fast bowlers are natural to Pakistan.Its really amazing that a 17 year old rattles big names in the Sri Lankan batting line up and changes the course of the match and that too a World Cup final–isnt it amazing

  7. Kashif Aslam says:

    Yes, Pakistan is a great country. Pakistani talents is performing well outside pakistan, but within Pakistan Personalities rule. We need to stop brain drain from Pakistan and let the young Pakistanis take over the country. In USA, the top students in high school system are Pakistani and they are leading from the front.
    It is time for Pakistanis to love Pakistan as much as the overseas Pakistanis.


    Kashif Aslam
    New Jersey-USA

  8. Musharraf Husain says:

    I totally agree with Mr. Qamar ul Hasan.
    There is no question of talent or system.
    The problem which we face is the pure and neat justiced selection of players.
    I think the corruption and liking and links are the main hurdles in our progress in every department of our country.
    If we get rid of this guilt we can prove our self the champions in every game and discipline.
    God bless our country.

  9. Hasnain Ibrahim says:

    I am totally agree with the article. We need some talent hunters to pick some quality players. As far as talent hunting is concern it is history that Pakistan produce some great players through unconventional method. Aamir has proved himself in T20 circuit but the real test is yet to come against experienced Srilankan batting line up. Hope he will do fine and prove that he can be as lethal in Test matches as he is in the shorter formats. A good performance in test matches will secure his permanent place in the line-up.

  10. SAYALI says:

    yes i agreed,i wana thanked pakistan cricket team for icct20 2009.iam indian but i am a pakistan cricket supoter.i respect Mr.Khan’s captency.all the players are good.

    iwana thanked Mr.Umer GUL,KKR mis you

  11. arsalan khan says:

    Indeed very rightly pointed out in this article, the Pakistan’s entire infrastructure along with the cricket needs a facelift. Talent is of no good if it’s not harnessed and polished. Aamir is a good find I’ll urge the pcb to keep their eyes open if they want even more extraordinary players…

  12. Black Panther says:

    Imran Yusuf – you calling RawalPindi a nowhere shows you have no idea of the importance of this city for Pakistan and the Pakistani People.

    The rest I agree with you – Aamir being a great find of this tour. I pray we continue to unearth such talent all the time and make good use of them.

    I think the next T20 World cup is in 2010 simply because the ODI World Cup is in 2011. So, ICC doesn’t want both world Cups in same year so they have moved next T20 world cup in 2010.

  13. Syed Qamar-ul Hassan says:

    I always believe in talent and Thanks to Allah, Pakistan has plenty of that. This is my greatest wish that we properly utilize our cricketing legends like Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Rashid Latif. What PCB can do is to assign each of the above players his respective speciality to find and groom talent from all over Pakistan and report to PCB.
    That’s what happened to Aamir, Wasim saw him reported it to PCB, which was wise enough to act on Wasim’s advice.

    The academies established by PCB can prove to be excellent nurseries if utilized properly and senior player visiting those academies regularly. This will put a very positive effect on the player in the academy.

    Thanks a lot!!

  14. Wasimuddin Shaikh says:

    Pakistan recent victory, this joy came after 17 years in our country. At this stage Pakistan & all Pakistan facing hurdle in every field.
    Alongwith this victory Pakistan find a good baller. We can say another Wasim Akram discover.

  15. Rizwan says:

    Do any one know why the next world cup is in 2010…It should be after 2 years…
    I have no knowledge that this was stated before Pakistan wins…please correct me…

  16. Asif Noor says:

    Salaam & Congratulations to all fans of “Team Pakistan”

    Mohammed Amir is a good find but let’s not forget other talented young pacers like Mohammed Talha & Anwar Ali Khan (Cousin of Umar Gul).

  17. Ammar says:

    Wasim spotted him right in the camp, next he must promote him to his level of Accuracy n intelligence……….
    No doubt he is a gr8 find but there is a long journey ahead n he must be properly guided, trained n polished so a boy playing tennis ball cricket become a Hard Ball Talent n Pace attack duo(the other being Umer Gul,obviously)

  18. Indusonian says:

    I hope we will see these players again since PCB like any other organization in Pakistan are infested with the disease of cronysim, nepotism and corruption. There is no regard for talent, it’s all about connections. I am delighted and proud of this team that they played for the country as a unit to prove the enemies wrong. I salute to this team since they showed a real true spirit as a Pakistani and as a sportsmen.

  19. ali says:

    He is a good find, but he still has a long ways to go before he can be compared to the likes of Wasim Akram.Lets not rush into things.

  20. shabir magami from indian occupied kashmir says:

    the legend and great wasim akram can make gem out of nybody , be it aamir or anybody less gifted than him

  21. Najib says:

    I believe in having too many talent in Pakistan but fact of the matter is PCB has been a joke in the past. Since world cup 2003, Pakistan has never been a settled team, some players emerged but failed to be consistent in form like Yasir Hameed, Imran Farhat, Mohammad Hafeez and so on. We have lost so many fantastic players like Mohammad Zahid, Ata ur Rehman etc, and PCB not taking good care of their players like Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif made things worse, now we have players like Mohammad Amir, Shahzaib Hasan, and Ahmad Shehzad because they have been wonderful in T20 that they will get more opportunity. We have had bad past, but I would like to request PCB not to overlook the players like Imran Nazir, Rana Naved, Mohammad Asif and more players like Umar Amin and Salman Butt. And I hope just because not a great show by Sohail Khan and Mohammad Talha are the end of them, I hope to see them more again.

    My favorite XI for T20 are:
    Imran Nazir, Kamran Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Misbah ul Haq, Younis Khan, Umar Gul, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir, Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Razzaq with extras of Shahzaib Hasan, Ahmad Shehzad and Sohail Khan

    My favorite XI for ODI are:
    Imran Nazir, Salman Butt, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Misbah ul Haq, Younis Khan, Umar Gul, Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and Saeed Ajmal with extras of Rana Naved, Ahmad Shehzad, Shahzaib Hasan, Sohail Khan, Sohail Tanveer, Mohammad Talha and Sarfaraz Ahmad.

    My favorite XI for Test are:
    Kamran Akmal, Younis Khan, Misbah ul Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Faisal Iqbal, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Umar Gul, Danish Kaneria, Sohail Khan and Mohammad Amir with extras of Mohammad Talha, Iftikhar Anjum, Mohammad Asif, Salman Butt, Umar Amin, Shabeer Ahmad and Yasir Arafat.

    I hope PCB see my comment and do something quickly and study our fantastic players before next T20 world cup and world cup 2011.

  22. Faisal Taquie says:

    Great article! A system is definitely needed and one where our past greats and legends like Akram, Waqar, Miandad, Imran Khan, Rashid Latif and many others are used to spot the talent and mentor them. I can argue that just small tips from people like Akram, Imran Khan, Miandad, et al can completely take an individual’s game to another level!

  23. Malik U. Ahmed says:

    Not 2 forget he has taken atleast one wicket in every match except for super 8 against Sri Lanka and his wicket was always from either of opening batsmen .

  24. Farhan says:

    As long as we can keep him away from the likes of Shoaib Akhter and make sure he doesnt cheat like Asif he should turn out fine.

  25. Benawa says:

    Am I mistaken, or you have actually described Rawalpindi as “nowhere?”

    You have some nerve!

    (Interesting anecdote about Bari’s selction. And I always thought he was chosen
    for his good looks. Thanks for disabusing me of that notion.)

    What can I say? As far as talent goes, Pak
    “Miti” is extremely “zerkhayze.”

  26. roomi says:

    Its great that we find talents like these and many others but obe feels they are not nurtured or protected and many are wasted.And they find the new young hottie of the month. Amir is wonderful. But lots of players get sidelined. The boys who won the amazing under 19 Cup. all those boys are nowhere.Amir Aly was an amazing swing bowler. Also some players like Imran Nazir-an exceptional player. (even before ICL he was an in and out of the team player depite is 180 against Zimbabwe) He can walk into most International sides in the world just by his ability. We wasted Basit Ali, Mohamad Waseem, and many others-Mohd Zahid was wasted. One would like PCB to nurture Pakistan’s true talents even some of those who are on the sidelines.Razzak’s comeback was a big factor in us winning the cup. Lets gather some more of our players round this team.

  27. Blue Lake says:

    Well.. it’s always going to be 11 msot talented players in a team and others would miss out. What we need to make sure that no PARCHEES make it to our national team just because either they were relatives of an ex-cricketer or had a SOURCE. That almost destroyed our cricket team time and again. Likes of M. Sami, Hassan Raza, Bazid Khan, Rana, Ata-ur-Rahman, Faisal Iqbal etc. had no chance making it to the team but they did and the results are the best judge. No offense to anybody here.

  28. Ali says:

    Your post was good but you made one fundamental error which leads to doubt your journalistic capabilities and cricketing knowledge.

    Moin Khan was easily a better keeper than Wasim Bari. To label Wasim Bari as the best keeper we ever had is to say that Kamran Akmal is the best keeper in the game today.

    Please dont try to polish apples through your column!

  29. sajid says:

    Yes, Aamir is a great find. If he can keep his feet firmly planted on this planet and work hard I am sure he will emerge as a fearsome fast bowler of the class of Wasim Akram, his mentor.I hope he is not wasted the way exceptionally talented Muhammad Zahid was wasted. We need to take care of him.

  30. Sarmad Palijo says:

    While Pakistan’s Twenty20 world cup win made the whole country happy, it is sad that team Pakistan does not represent the country as a whole. In the history of the sport in Pakistan we are yet to see a Sindhi or a Baloch player being selected and given the opportunity to represent the nation. It is not possible to imagine that 40 million Sindhis and 10 Million Baloch have no talent to produce through their numbers. We must make sure even a kid in Hyderabad or a child in Sibi can dream of wearing green for Pakistan as he walks out on the field to play.

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