It seems like a considerable amount of time has passed since Pakistan could boast a quality fast-bowling all-rounder. The likes of Wasim Akram, Abdul Razzaq and Azhar Mahmood were the envy of many sides in the late nineties and noughties but stocks in this department appear to have run dry as Pakistan have increased their reliance on spin bowling in recent years.
One man looking to buck this trend is 25-year-old Aamer Yamin who has already had some success in a Pakistan shirt. His international debut came in the ODI series against Zimbabwe in 2015 where he showcased his ability by opening the bowling and providing useful runs down the order, including 62 batting at number eight in his second ODI. With some important overseas tours coming up in which a fast-bowling all-rounder could be a vital component of the side, Aamer Yamin may become a well recognised name for Pakistani fans in the coming months.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, the Multan-born pacer spoke about how he got into the game, his international debut, the importance of international cricket returning to Pakistan and his exclusion from the Pakistan Test and A squads touring England this summer.
By Shayan Siddiqui (8th June, 2016)
PakPassion.net : Tell us about how your introduction to cricket?
Aamer Yamin : I used to watch a lot of cricket when I was young and had a lot of interest in the game but what made this a more serious pursuit was when I started playing club cricket in 2004. I just went to a net and started practicing one day and slowly my interest in cricket grew and I eventually reached the Under-19s side. I had a few role models too which were largely made up of the 1999 World Cup side that reached the Final; so the likes of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Shahid Afridi were people I looked up to. When I started playing cricket more seriously, I did have a few problems at home as you would expect given that most people didn't consider this a proper profession but thankfully it was nothing too serious and as I started playing cricket at a higher level, the worries of my family eased considerably.
I would like to mention Wasim Haider, who was my coach at Multan when I moved up from Under-19s to First-Class cricket. He encouraged me a lot and told me I have the ability to play for Pakistan and become a very good all-rounder. His words did seem to have some weight as in 2013 I was Multan’s best all-rounder after scoring a lot of runs and taking wickets so that was a very important time for me. Later in the year I received an offer to join the State Bank of Pakistan team based entirely on merit which I took, and from there my cricket has gone from strength to strength.
PakPassion.net : Do you consider yourself more a batting all-rounder or a bowling all-rounder?
Aamer Yamin : I started fast bowling in 2008 having played at Under-19 level as a batsman. I developed my bowling slowly after the coach saw me bowl a bit and told me I can become a good bowler. I can’t really say which of the two is stronger for me as I consider both my batting and bowling to be at a good level at the moment. Given I’ve scored most of my First-Class runs batting at number eight position, my bowling is probably considered the stronger one and I do enjoy bowling more than batting.
PakPassion.net : You made your international debut against Zimbabwe in 2015, how was that experience?
Aamer Yamin : It was a very memorable debut series for me. We won the first match against Zimbabwe and in the second we were chasing 276 and were 76-6. I then had a good partnership with Shoaib Malik and made 62; this was after having been not out in the first game. I hit 5 fours and 4 sixes so was very pleased with my performance although the only disappointment is that we lost that 2nd ODI. Early in the innings Shoaib Malik asked how I wanted to play and I said I want to be positive and he encouraged me to play my natural game. He kept talking to me and suggesting things I could do differently so I really enjoyed that partnership with him. We played in a very calculated way and didn’t take too many risks but managed to maintain the required run rate.
I don’t remember feeling much pressure on my international debut, I just treated it as any other game. I have passion for cricket and I felt well prepared for this occasion so I wasn’t very nervous or stressed before my debut as some players are.
I would like to add a few words about senior players who really helped me during that series against Zimbabwe and also later on. I would like to mention Mohammad Hafeez who gave me a lot of support and told me that I’m a very good all-rounder and that I should work on my skills. He also encouraged me to train hard and to have the right diet which was all very useful advice. As mentioned before, Shoaib Malik was also very supportive and I also played under him in the Pakistan Cup where I was given the new ball which showed the trust he had in my abilities.
When I later made my T20I debut against England, it was just as memorable for me as I took the wicket of Jason Roy with my first ball and bowled two overs for 12 runs. Whilst we also lost that series I was satisfied with my own performance and hope to get more opportunities in future.
PakPassion.net : Inzamam-ul-Haq has stated that Pakistan do not have a Test quality all-rounder at the moment. Do you see Test cricket as the ultimate goal?
Aamer Yamin : I’m most interested in the longer form of the game because it gives you time to show your ability. As I said, all my big scores have come batting at number eight including a score of 225 for Multan against Quetta in 2013. During that innings we were 62/6 yet I still had time to get 225! So I’ve been able to score runs in difficult conditions and tough situations and I’ve enjoyed those challenges. As a result I much prefer Test and 4-day cricket over the shorter forms.
PakPassion.net : Tell us about the experience of playing in the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
Aamer Yamin : The PSL was a fantastic learning experience for us as we had the opportunity to speak to and learn from some huge names. I was sharing a dressing room with Darren Sammy, Wahab Riaz and Shahid Afridi so I learned a lot from the way they approach matches, their attitude to the game, their gym training and work ethic. Being around them in the hotels also meant we saw how they reacted to victories and defeats. We saw that they didn’t get too down about performing badly and always maintained a positive attitude so that was good to see. It was really a huge honour to play with someone like Darren Sammy who has now led the West Indies to two World Twenty20 titles. He encouraged us to work hard and remain focused on our game as that’s the only way to deliver good performances, whether that’s at club, domestic or international level. He also stressed the importance of fitness as good fitness helps to produce good performances. So it was a great learning experience for me and I hope that future editions of the PSL provide the same opportunity.
PakPassion.net : How big a difference does it make to play cricket at home?
Aamer Yamin : It’s always nice to play in Pakistan in front of our own crowds and on pitches and wickets we are more familiar with. We know for example how the wickets in Lahore or Karachi will behave and I think if international cricket returns to Pakistan, teams will really struggle to beat us. We’ve seen how teams like India and South Africa and England prosper in their home conditions by preparing wickets which suit them. England have twice come to the UAE and lost recently and we’d perform even better if we were playing in places like Multan or Faisalabad where we know the conditions even better. So it’s a huge loss not having international cricket at home, particularly since we don’t get to play in front of our home crowds.
PakPassion.net : Were you disappointed at missing out on selection for the Pakistan A tour of England?
Aamer Yamin : I completely understand the decision as a professional so there wasn’t anything to be disappointed about. The selectors have a tough job and they do it well. What I need to do is to perform well going forward and work my way back into the team. I’m working on my technique and my fitness so that when I get another opportunity I’m ready for it. Inzamam-ul-Haq has said that selection in the Pakistan A team isn’t the only requirement to progress further and I can still go straight into the senior side if required which is encouraging for me. Whatever happens next, I know that I need to continue to perform to the best of my abilities as I have the goal of becoming Pakistan’s best all-rounder in future.