For those of you who may have missed my interviews with Nadeem Iqbal and Aaqib Javed, let me fill you in.
Nadeem was Mohammad Zahid's mentor and Waqar's opening partner for Multan. Many cricketers have claimed that Nadeem was faster than Waqar (including Zahid and Waqar) but unfortunately Nadeem never got the chance to play for Pakistan. The closest he got was a side game or two. Anyway I was interested in getting an interview with Nadeem and I managed to arrange it through Pakistan fan Qadoos! So a big thanks to him for that.
During the interview with Nadeem it came to light that he was pushing two young fast bowlers. One was Tariq Mahmood who reminded him of a young Zahid but not as fast.
The other was a 7 foot left arm fast bowler called Mohammad Irfan. From the moment I heard about Irfan I was always calling up Nadeem for updates on him and his progress towards playing first class cricket. Sadly the last few times I called, Nadeem said that Irfan wasnt coming to practise anymore. He'd stopped playing because he also had a full time job and couldnt afford to dedicate himself to cricket anymore. It looked like the end of a promising career.
When I got a chance to interview Aaqib recently I mentioned Irfan to him and Aaqib said he'd never heard of him. Then I thought why not see if I can do a bit of sifarish (patronage/nepotism) on behalf of Irfan and I pestered Aaqib to agree to see him. In the end Aaqib agreed and I called up Nadeem Iqbal to give him the good news. Although we'd only agreed with Aqib about Irfan, I asked Nadeem to send both Tariq and Irfan along to see Aaqib.
Aaqib saw them both earlier this week, I called him afterwards for his
impressions. This is what he had to say...
Abdul Habib: So have you had a chance to see Nadeem Iqbal's boys Tariq Mahmood (the fast bowler) and Mohammad Irfan (the 7 foot left arm fast bowler)?
Aaqib Javed: Yes I did, they were both here yesterday.
Abdul Habib: Ok we'll start with Tariq. What did you think of him and what speeds did he clock?
Aaqib Javed: He told me that he'd hit speeds upto 140k in the past but when i clocked him he could only bowl at 123k to 124k. When I asked him what the problem was he told me that he'd been carrying an injury and that he didn't want to say anything and risk losing the opportunity.
Abdul Habib: Interesting. What did you advise him?
Aaqib Javed: Aaqib Javed: I told him that he should go back and get his fitness sorted. Then once he's comfortable with his speed and bowling he should come back to see me again.
Abdul Habib: That's very fair of you but what were your honest impressions of him as a bowler?
Aaqib Javed: His main problem is that he's a short guy. He's only 5'8 to 5'9 and when you're that short, in order to be really effective at the international level, you need to be bowling 85mph+ (137k+). I've asked him to come back when he's fit. If he really does clock 140k+ then he has a chance but without the speed I didnt see anything unique in him. Not on this occasion anyway.
Abdul Habib: Ok let's move onto Irfan, what was your first impression of him.
Aaqib Javed: That he's tall (laughs)
Abdul Habib: (laughs) And after that?
Aaqib Javed: I told him to pack his bags and come join me the next day. I dont want to waste any time in getting started on him.
Abdul Habib: That's huge news.
Aaqib Javed: We shouldn't get carried away yet. He's very raw and right now there's no way to know whether he can meet my expectations. At least not until I have time to work with him and see what he's actually capable of. It could take up to two months before I'm in a position to say anything with any certainty.
Abdul Habib: What speeds is he clocking?
Aaqib Javed: He told me that he'd been clocked bowling at 138k but the highest he recorded with me was only 125k. In his defense I'd already been made aware that he'd been carrying an injury for several months and wouldnt be fully fit when I saw him. What I told him was that I didnt need him to clock 140k, I didnt even need him to clock 138k. I told him that if he could clock 135k for me then I believe he should play for Pakistan. He's tall, so he naturally gets extra bounce and with a bit more speed he could be a very dangerous bowler.
Abdul Habib: With his height and bounce, even an average speed of 130-132k should be enough to trouble any batsman.
Aaqib Javed: That's exactly what I told him. I said if you can increase the top of your range to 135k then you will be a far better bowler.
Abdul Habib: Is he a swing or seam bowler?
Aaqib Javed: At the moment he has no clue about what he's trying to do. He's very raw, he hasn't played any professional games at all. The road ahead of him is long and hard. He gets natural swing away from the right handed batsman but it doesnt matter about swing and seam right now. We can teach him that stuff at the academy and if he's good enough then he'll pick it up. What he needs right now is to bring his fitness levels up and start bowling as fast as he can. If he manages to hit 135k+ then we have something special here.
Abdul Habib: What about his action? He must have long, gangly arms like Shabbir Ahmed. Is his action legal?
Aaqib Javed: There's nothing wrong with his action, it's completely legal. He's nothing like Shabbir.
Abdul Habib: If he's as raw as you say then what's the next step?
Aaqib Javed: When I met him I remembered that I'd seen him before. He came to see me in Karachi some 18 or so months ago. I discussed a few things with him and asked him to go away and work on them, from the evidence I saw yesterday he has been working hard on those issues. What I'm really curious about is the mental side of his game, I want to know whether or not he will be an intelligent bowler. I'm hoping he's someone who knows how to work batsmen out and not someone who just runs in and bowls anything he can think of whilst hoping for the best. It usually takes around a week to decide whether or not someone is capable of becoming a thinking bowler, right now that's my only concern about him.
Abdul Habib: So what was your parting advice to him?
Aaqib Javed: I told him to pack his bags and come straight back. I want to work on his mental and physical fitness, he hasnt played any real cricket yet so he still has everything to learn. I spent the whole day thinking to myself that we might have something really special here but only if he wants it badly enough. At the end of the day we can push him as hard as we like but if he doesnt respond then nothing will come of it. It depends on what he wants from life and whether he is willing to put the work in to get it.
Abdul Habib: That's so true, so many talents remain unfulfilled because they dont want to put in the hard graft.
Aaqib Javed: Sadly I've seen it too many times.
Abdul Habib: If he does put in the hard work where will he go from here?
Aaqib Javed: I'm aiming to launch him in the coming domestic season which starts this October. I'll get one of the first class teams to take him on and we'll see if he can deliver on the expectation!
Abdul Habib: Ok then Aaqib Bhai, thank you for taking a look at these two kids for me.
Aaqib Javed: No problem and thank you for making me aware of them.
Wow I still cant believe it! It's quite possible that I've has uncovered one of the future stars of Pakistani cricket. I could hear the excitement in Aaqibs voice, he was genuinely impressed with Irfan.
After speaking to Aaqib I called up Nadeem Iqbal and asked him about how Tariq and Irfan had taken it.
Nadeem said that Tariq was very worried and a little depressed but that he wasn't going to give up. Tariq promised that he will get back to full fitness and then go to see Aaqib again.
Nadeem said Irfan is very excited about the opportunity and that he's arranging his affairs and will be going back to the NCA soon. Irfan has promised to put everything he has into making it big!
So that's it for now!
Irfan Blog: Trying my hand at a bit of Sifarish
Irfan Blog: Trying my hand at a bit of Sifarish