A profile of Shahnawaz Dhani, an emerging fast-bowler from Khawar Khan Dahani (Larkana) who has impressed in his second First-Class season for Sindh.
By Amir Husain (7th January, 2021)
Name: Shahnawaz Dhani
Date of Birth: 5th August, 1998, Born in Khawar Khan Dahani, Larkana
Major teams: Larkana Under-19s, Larkana Region Under 19s, Larkana, Larkana Region, Sindh
Batting style: Right-handed
Bowling style: Right Arm Medium Fast
Height: 6ft 2in
Interest in cricket:
I grew up in a village near Larkana where we really didn’t have many opportunities to play cricket in any organized way. We did have a huge following for tape-ball cricket and the passion for the game in our village was absolutely unbelievable. As for me, I would watch cricket on TV and always be interested in matches being shown there and based on that interest, started to play tape-ball cricket from the age of 10. My late father was not very happy with me playing tape-ball and always wanted me to concentrate on studies as he didn’t see much of a future in this game and he wanted me to become a Government Officer. So, I concentrated on studies and completed a BComm degree before I could really get into professional cricket.
Starting hard-ball cricket at the Under-19 Region Level in 2016/2017
My move to hard-ball cricket was very unique. Unlike other players who start off at junior levels and worked their way to the senior levels in domestic cricket, my journey in professional cricket with the hard-ball started in 2016 when I was selected for the Larkana Region Under-19 side in 2016. The way this happened was that a person connected with the Larkana regional cricket was an old and trusted friend of my late father and he visited our village, and the local boys organized a tape-ball game in his honour. Everyone wanted to impress him with their skills and my father who knew about my passion for the game asked me to put in my best effort too. I took that advice literally and took off my shirt and ran in to bowl as fast I as could, and the visitor was really impressed with my bowling skills and asked me if I wanted to play hard-ball cricket. He was very impressed by my bowling and told me to come to Larkana for trials which I did. But when I arrived there, I had to borrow shoes and socks from my friend and then went to the trials where I was picked to play for the Larkana Region Under-19 side in 2016/17. I was asked to play for Larkana Region in that season and started by taking 9 wickets in the 2-Day Regional Inter District Under-19 Tournament 2016-17 which was a good beginning for me and a very good introduction to the world of hard-ball cricket.
Moving to First-Class cricket in 2019/20
By 2019 I had played enough cricket at the regional level to feel that I was ready to move on to First-Class cricket. But there was a problem which was that to progress further, I was told that I had to play Grade 2 cricket for one to two years and that filled me with a lot of apprehension about my future. I decided to take my chances and was selected to play for Larkana Region in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Grade 2 2018/19 where in 3 matches I took 9 wickets, with best figures of 4/70. What this stint in Grade 2 taught me was about how the game was played at one of the highest domestic levels, and I was now starting to feel that I was getting somewhere in cricket. With the new structure in place for the 2019/20 season, I was picked as a white-ball specialist for Sindh and got to play in 2 matches in the National T20 Cup where I took 3 wickets. It appeared that I would not be able to play in First-Class games but as luck would have it, a few of the Pakistan players were pulled away for international duties and so I was given a chance to play in the First XI for Sindh and I debuted for them in November 2019 against Southern Punjab, taking one wicket.
To say that there was a world of difference between First-Class cricket and any other form or level of the game I had played before would be an understatement – I was overawed by the occasion but also learnt a lot from my first and only First-Class game I played in that season. There was a lot to learn such as how to use the Kookaburra ball effectively, how to bowl against top-quality batsmen and also the fitness levels needed to bowl long spells over 4-days and I really did enjoy that experience. The encouragement I got from Sarfaraz Ahmed and other senior members of the squad was incredible and they all told me that I had great potential and could only get better in the future.
Good performances in the 2020/21 domestic season
This has been a very good season for me as I started off with 6 wickets in 4 games for Sindh 2nd XI in the National T20 Cup, then took 17 wickets in 5 matches in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy for Sindh 2nd XI. But the highlight of the season was my promotion to the First XI from Round 4 of the tournament where I picked up 26 wickets in 7 games.
Proud of being a cricketer from interior Sindh
It’s indeed a great honour and something which fills me with great joy to be able to say that I am from a small village near Larkana and have played top level domestic cricket. Whenever I go home, I have many people waiting to meet me and ask me about my experience in First-Class cricket and a lot of the time I get invited to play in local games as well, and of course for meals at my fellow villager’s homes. It’s a matter of pride for my mother and my family who watch every time I have appeared on TV, and I am thankful to the Almighty for all that I have achieved so far.
Shane Bond has always been my role model
The former New Zealand fast-bowler, Shane Bond, has always been my favourite bowler and someone who I have watched on TV with great interest. There are some aspects of his action which I have tried to make my own, but he is definitely someone I draw a lot of inspiration from. As for my best delivery and one that I enjoy bowling with a lot of control, it has to be the bouncer. In terms of speed, I was measured at 139 KpH in 2018 at the NCA and I do feel I can bowl faster than that.
Aspirations to play in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and represent Pakistan
I have always been a great fan of the PSL since the first edition of the tournament. I would love to be part of the PSL, although I did come close to participating in the tournament as I was part of the emerging category in the draft for the 2020 tournament but was not picked. I do hope that will change for the 2021 edition, but regardless of that, my eyes are firmly on playing for Pakistan in the future and for that I am ready to put in as much work as is needed to make my dream of representing my country come true.