An Interview with forgotten speedster Nadeem Iqbal by Abdul Habib 14th March 2008 Waqar Younis got a run with the Pakistan team because Imran Khan happened to see him bowling on the television and demanded to have him brought to the nets. Waqar's opening bowling partner Nadeem Iqbal wasn't so lucky and never got the chance to represent Pakistan. Read his fascinating story below... Abdul Habib: What got you into cricket, where did it all start for you? Nadeem Iqbal: Well my interest in cricket started from watching Manzoor Elahi playing, that's what made me want to become a cricketer too. Abdul Habib: Who were your favourite Pakistani players and why? Nadeem Iqbal: I loved watching Imran Khan and Javed Miandad playing for Pakistan. On a more personal level I liked Inzamam and Mushtaq Ahmed because they were my badge fellows and played for Multan with me. We played together from the u14 level and I got to know them quite well, we were all good friends off the pitch as well. Abdul Habib: Any Non-Pakistani players you enjoyed watching? Nadeem Iqbal: It has to be Martin Crowe, I loved watching him bat. He had a lot of style and was a brave batsman. Abdul Habib: Which bowlers did you enjoy watching in your early years as a cricketer? Nadeem Iqbal: I loved watching Imran Khan because in those days he was at his peak and was in great form. Wasim Akram was just making a name for himself in those days and he was another of my favourite bowlers, he had a great reputation in Lahore as a very fast and fearsome bowler. I even played with Wasim a few times but I was very young and raw back then. Also Saleem Jaffer really impressed me during the 1987 World Cup. Abdul Habib: Which fast bowlers do you enjoy watching today? Nadeem Iqbal: Brett Lee because he never gives up, it doesnt matter if he's bowling his first over of the day or his last over of the day he bowls with the same passion and fire. He has a lot of heart and a never say die attitude that sets him apart. Abdul Habib: What about the current Pakistani bowlers? Nadeem Iqbal: I enjoy watching Asif bowl, Gul as well and Rana Naved too. Abdul Habib: ..Shoaib Akhtar? Nadeem Iqbal: Well... erm... Shoaib Akhtar is ok too. Actually I've played with him in side games, we've played against the Australian Academy team and I think Sri Lanka as well. Abdul Habib: You made your FC debut a month after your 15th birthday, what led to you being given a first place team at such a young age? Nadeem Iqbal: Well I was a natural outswing bowler, although at that time I didnt even really know what outswing was. I'd been playing well at u14 level, so they called me up to a Multan camp. Whilst I was there Manzoor Elahi and another Multan fast bowler became unfit. The selectors said they would use me to fill in for the injured bowlers for just one game and then Manzoor Elahi should be fit for the next game. But I took 6 wickets in that game and then they decided to try me for a few more games, I kept performing so they kept me in the team and played me regularly after that. Abdul Habib: At the time, were you the youngest player to play FC cricket in Pakistan? Nadeem Iqbal: I don't know, I was definitely the youngest player in the Multan team. There have been other players who played FC cricket at 14 or 15 years old so I doubt I was the youngest. Abdul Habib: Tell us about the 17th of November 1998 when you took 6 wickets against National Bank? Nadeem Iqbal: Well we got them out for 20 and I believe its the third lowest score in the history of cricket. The lowest was in a match between Oxford and Cambridge Universities in 1929 and then in 1930 some team was all out for about 12. I dont remember the exact dates or details but I've been told that it's the third lowest score ever. It wasn't a bad wicket for batting that day, the surface was quite good but I got the ball swinging a lot and took 6 wickets. We had no idea we'd set a record until the newspaper reporters came and told us about it after the game. Abdul Habib: Who was your fast bowling role model? Nadeem Iqbal: I was very young when I joined the Multan team and my role model in general at the time was Manzoor Elahi, I played with him a lot and he was a very nice guy, very generous and religious too. If I had any questions about my game, he'd be the guy I'd ask. Abdul Habib: We've never seen you bowl, could you describe your runup and action to us? Nadeem Iqbal: All my friends and my department colleagues tell me that there is no difference between Asif's action and mine, they say I used to bowl with exactly the same action and runup as Asif. Abdul Habib: Many people including both Waqar and Zahid have said you were faster than Waqar, is this true? Nadeem Iqbal: Well Waqar was a very fast bowler and he was very well built too, I on the other hand was very weak and skinny. We all knew from the start that Waqar would go on and do great things, you could just see it in him when you watched him bowling. Speedwise I was probably a few miles an hour slower than Waqar but not by much, the big difference between us was that I was a natural swinger of the ball whilst Waqar had a lot of difficulty in getting the ball to swing. Abdul Habib: But Waqar was one of the best swing bowlers at International level, he could swing it like a banana. Nadeem Iqbal: When he played with me, he used to have a lot of pace but not much swing. All that changed when he went to a Pakistan camp in Sharjah, Imran worked very closely with him and taught him how to swing the ball properly. Abdul Habib: Do you have any clips or videos of you bowling that you can share with us? Nadeem Iqbal: I've got some videos of my bowling in league cricket in England, I'm happy to share them with you if you want them. (some discussion about how to get these videos) Abdul Habib: Tell us about your fastest bowling spell. Nadeem Iqbal: I once took 8 wickets against Habib Bank in one innings, those were my career best bowling figures and I took a lot of International players wickets like Shahid Afridi, Hasan Raza, Ijaz Ahmed Sr. Abdul Habib: I've heard that you were so fast that your wicketkeeper and slip fielders used to stand further back than for any other quick. Nadeem Iqbal: I dont know if any other bowler had his keeper and slips further back than mine but mine certainly stood very far back. The main reason for this was because the ball used to really fly off the pitch when I was bowling, I used to hit the deck hard and the ball used to just jump at the batsman and keep climbing after passing him so they had to stand quite far back to catch the ball. Abdul Habib: Is it true that someone once edged you over the slips and the edge went for a six? Nadeem Iqbal: Yes that is true, it happened when I was playing league cricket in England for Blythe cricket club. Abdul Habib: Whats more satisfying; destroying the stumps with a yorker or making a batsman hop and skip with a barrage of lethal bouncers? Nadeem Iqbal: Neither, my favourite dismissal was to out think the batsman and beat him with my outswing. I loved getting batsmen caught in the slips, there was no better feeling that that. Abdul Habib: But if you had to choose between a yorker or a bouncer, which delivery do you prefer? Nadeem Iqbal: Well bouncers are usually wasted deliveries because they either get called wide or if the keeper misses it, you concede a boundary. A well placed yorker is a far more useful delivery for a bowler to bowl. Abdul Habib: Have you ever broken batsmen's bones? Nadeem Iqbal: There was a bowler from WAPDA called Sarfaraz, he was batting in the tail and I hit him in the neck. He was quite badly injured by that. Actually I've hit a lot of guys over the years but I dont remember all the names, I dont like to remember hurting people it's not a good thing. Abdul Habib: Have you ever broken any bats or smashed the stumps into smithereens? Nadeem Iqbal: I havent done it at first class level but in club cricket I've smashed many stumps and broken lots of bats over the years. Abdul Habib: What is the furthest you have sent a stump flying? Nadeem Iqbal: I've done that lots of times, I've often sent a stump flying 15 to 20 feet back. It's a great sight to behold when that happens. It also depends on how tightly the stumps are being held in place. If the stumps are left loose then it flies further than if they've been put in solidly. Abdul Habib: Did batsmen fear you? Nadeem Iqbal: I dont remember (laughs) Abdul Habib: (laughs) A modest fast bowler! Ok then how fast were you at your peak? Nadeem Iqbal: Im my estimation about 85mph. Abdul Habib: Are you sure? The slips wont be standing that far back to a guy bowling at 85mph, the ball wont jump the way you described it and Waqar was not bowling at 87 mph in those days. From what we've heard and you've told us you had to have been at least in the mid-90s. Nadeem Iqbal: Well maybe they are right. Look you shouldnt praise yourself from your own mouth, it's an ugly thing. If you've heard about my pace from Zahid, Waqar and others then they are International cricketers who have played alongside me and they know about these things. They're probably right and I'm underestimating my own pace. Abdul Habib: Who is the fastest bowler you have seen? Nadeem Iqbal: At International of First Class level? Abdul Habib: Start off with First Class Nadeem Iqbal: Sami and Waqar before their debuts were lightning fast but Zahid was the fastest bowler I've ever seen in my life. Abdul Habib: Do you think Mohammad Zahid was faster then Shoaib Akthar? Nadeem Iqbal: Without a doubt, Zahid was noticeably faster than Akhtar. I've bowled with Akhtar and worked very closely with Zahid. Zahid was faster than Akhtar, no doubt about it. In those days he could bowl at 100 MPH. Abdul Habib: A lot of Pakistan fans agree with you there, they think that Zahid was bowling at 100 MPH before his back injury. Nadeem Iqbal: Before his International debut Zahid was playing a match in New Zealand where he was clocked at over 100 MPH but because the speed gun wasnt sanctioned by the ICC and it wasnt an International match, they refused to acknowledge the record. Abdul Habib: If that's true then it's going to create a sensation in Pakistan cricketing circles, how sure are you that this is true? Nadeem Iqbal: I know it's true because Zahid still has the clippings from English newspapers that carried that story. I've seen the clippings myself and they state he bowled at 100 point something (point 1 or 2 but I dont remember which) miles per hour. (A discussion about the possibility of getting a copy of those clippings) Abdul Habib: What about Waqar and Akhtar? Some people believe Waqar used to be faster than Akhtar. Nadeem Iqbal: In my opinion Akhtar is faster than Waqar was at his peak. Abdul Habib: If you were to place yourself on a speed list including Waqar, Akhtar and Zahid. Where would you be? Nadeem Iqbal: Ever so slightly behind Waqar, I was a just a little bit slower than him. Abdul Habib: What was it like opening the bowling with Waqar Younis for Multan? Nadeem Iqbal: It was a great feeling, I've always rated Waqar and I always used to think he's the guy who'll destroy the opposition batting Abdul Habib: The opposition batsmen must have been petrified when facing two super quick bowlers both burning up the pitch. Nadeem Iqbal: (laughs) Let me relate a story to you about our bowling partnership. In my first few games bowling with Waqar the opposition teams were PIA, Habib Bank and House Building (??). Their openers didnt want to come out to face us, they were complaining that they didnt know anything about us and we were too fast. Their batsmen had big arguments about who should open the innings, myself and Waqar only found out about it a year later! Abdul Habib: Do you still keep in touch with Waqar? Nadeem Iqbal: Yes I do but we havent spoken for about a year now because he's very busy these days but anytime he comes home to his village we always meet up for a chat. Abdul Habib: So you Waqar and Zahid are all from the same area? Three of the fastest bowlers ever and all from one small area of Pakistan, there must be a lot of cricketing talent there? Nadeem Iqbal: Yes, we live very close to each other and there is a lot of bowling talent here. It's the village lifestyle, the diet and the exercise which makes our lads strong and healthy. Abdul Habib: With so much pace and such a great first class record, Why do you think you never got a chance to play at International level? Nadeem Iqbal: Firstly it's about destiny, it just wasn't in my destiny to play for Pakistan. Plus we had such a great bowling attack Waqar, Wasim, Aaqib and then Mohammad Akram arrived. Mohammad Akram was very fast when he first arrived. Abdul Habib: Were you the victim of 'sifarish'? So much talent never gets past the 'hand over the 2 lakh' stage. Were you one of those who didnt get to play for that reason? Nadeem Iqbal: I would disagree with that, it's not about money at all. It's a lobby system here, it's helps if you have links with the right people. That is how you can get noticed or selected, plus there is favouritism too but I don't think it has anything to do with bribes. Abdul Habib: When we interviewed Sohail Khan he said that if he hadnt been spotted by Rashid Latif then he would still be playing club cricket, this is the same bowler who will probably be the fastest to 100 wickets in Pak domestic cricket. Nadeem Iqbal: Right now I have a bowler for whom I've been working night and day, trying to get him into any first class team. he reminds me so much of when I first saw Mohammad Zahid... Abdul Habib: ...is he as fast as Zahid was? Nadeem Iqbal: No, he's not that fast. I would estimate he bowls close to or faster than 90 mph. He comes from Khanewal, the same area where Shabbir Ahmed and Mohammad Irshad are from. I think he's an awesome bowler but he's 25 years old and this lobby system in our cricket means that we can't get him into any team. If you have no influence in Pakistani cricket then you cant do anything. His name is Tariq Mahmood and I just hope that we can get him into a team some time soon, Insha Allah. Abdul Habib: How many side games did you play for Pakistan? Nadeem Iqbal: I played 3 side games. 1 against Sri Lanka, 1 against the Australian Academy and 1 against Zimbabwe. Abdul Habib: Tell us about your memories of your 2004 memorial match for Attock Cricket Club in Birmingham. Is it true both Zahid and Waqar were there bowling alongside you? Did you decimate the opposition? Nadeem Iqbal: It wasn't like that, it was a benefit match and it was played in a friendly spirit. It's true that both Waqar and Zahid played alongside me, Bazid Khan was also there as well as Kabir and Kadeer Ali of England. Abdul Habib: Are you still involved in cricket in any capacity? Nadeem Iqbal: I still play club cricket and I've just completed my Level 2 coaching qualification, I'm hoping to become a PCB coach for my region. Abdul Habib: Have you ever or are you in contact with PCB? Nadeem Iqbal: Yes I did the Level 2 through the PCB and now i'm on a waiting list to become a coach for my Multan region. Abdul Habib: Do you have an academy? Nadeem Iqbal: Yes we've got a cricket academy in my village, the funding was agreed by our local Nazim (councillor?). We have revolving nets, a bowling machine and a video camera. It's a very good setup. Abdul Habib: Do you have a speed gun? Nadeem Iqbal: No we dont but we have a bowling machine. Abdul Habib: It seems like there isnt a speed gun in the whole of Pakistan, we've been told there isnt even a speed gun at the NCA. Which is a real shame given our rich fast bowling history. Nadeem Iqbal: Really? There should at least be one in the NCA. Abdul Habib: We know Zahid came from your academy but are there any other players we might recognise who've come from your academy? Nadeem Iqbal: Zahid isn't a product of our academy, the academy has only been running for the last 4 years. When Mohammad Zahid was here, we were just a cricket club and he played with us. It's true that I worked with him a lot but it wasnt an academy at that time. Some of our academy players are playing First Class cricket but no-one has made it to the International team yet. Abdul Habib: Do you have any fast bowlers at your academy that you think could make it at International level? Nadeem Iqbal: Well it's too soon to make any predictions but I've got a left arm pace bowler whom I think bowls around 88 mph, I think he has what it takes to make it in International cricket. BTW he's 7'2 tall... Abdul Habib: ...did you just say 7'2 tall? Like in 7 feet and 2 inches? Nadeem Iqbal: Yes, he's 7 feet and 2 inches tall. Abdul Habib: Tell us a bit more about him. Nadeem Iqbal: He's 20 years old and his name is Mohammad Irfan. He hasn't played any first class cricket yet because we want to work on him some more. We want to make him a good solid bowler before we sign him up to a FC team. We have high hopes for him, Insha Allah we'll see him playing for Pakistan one day. Abdul Habib: Insha Allah, when do you think he'll be ready for FC cricket? Nadeem Iqbal: By next year Insha Allah, he's working really hard but he also has a job so it's not easy for him. Abdul Habib: Any other promising players in your academy? Nadeem Iqbal: We have a left arm batsman called Naveed Yasin and a 13 year old off spin bowler who spins the ball like Murali... Abdul Habib: ...that's not a good thing. Tariq Mahmood from the 2004 u19 WC spun the ball like Murali but he couldnt bowl with that action in First Class or International cricket. Nadeem Iqbal: Yes I know about Tariq, he got banned but you've misunderstood me. This kids action is completely clean and the way he bowls at 13 years old is unbelievable. He spins the ball a long way for someone of his age. Abdul Habib: What's his name? Nadeem Iqbal: Erm... you know what I cant remember his real name, we all call him by his nickname 'Bau' and he's only been with us for about 3 or 4 months. Abdul Habib: We all know about your work with Mohammad Zahid, have you worked with any other International players? Nadeem Iqbal: Yes, Mohammad Sami. Abdul Habib: What do you think went wrong with Mohammad Sami? Nadeem Iqbal: If you slow down a video of him bowling then you'll see that by the time he is delivering the ball his face is turned towards cover and so he isnt looking at his target. That's why he bowls so many extras and no balls because his head moves too much and he loses his bearings. I was working with him in Karachi about 3 months ago and Insha Allah he'll be able to fix that problem with more practise. Abdul Habib: That's good news but he's joined the ICL, so that's the end of his International career. Nadeem Iqbal: Don't say that, Insha Allah all those lads will be allowed back when this thing settles down. Abdul Habib: Most Pakistan fans think its wrong to ban them, especially from domestic cricket. Nadeem Iqbal: I couldnt agree with you more, Im with you 100% on this one. Abdul Habib: Can you name the 3 fastest domestic bowlers who havent played for Pakistan yet. Nadeem Iqbal: There's Mohammad Irshad who is already quite well known, I think he can bowl up to 88-90 mph sometimes. Tanveer Ahmed from Karachi bowls upto about 88 mph as well and Yasir Ali (when I last saw him) was generating some serious pace, he was fast and I dont know why they havent given him another chance at International level. Recently he's had a few injuries and I havent seen him bowl after that, so I dont know if he still has the same pace. Abdul Habib: Do you think Sohail Khan can become a 150 kph bowler? Nadeem Iqbal: I havent seen that much of him but I dont think he's that fast, he may pass 150 kph but not from what I've seen of him so far. Abdul Habib: What are your plans for the future? Nadeem Iqbal: I have a business that I run and I'm hoping to get further involved with coaching for the PCB. I'd really like to pursue a career as a coach because I enjoy passing on what I've learnt over the years. Abdul Habib: Ok Nadeem Bhai, thank you very much for doing this interview and best of luck for the future. Nadeem Iqbal: Thank you for having me.