Currently in England to play four-day and One-Day games for Sussex, 26-year-old Mir Hamza has made an impressive start to his County career. He recently debuted for Pakistan in a Test match against Australia in Abu Dhabi and already has a haul of 288 first-class wickets to his name.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Mir Hamza spoke about the reasons behind his current stint with Sussex, differences between Pakistan domestic and English County cricket, disappointment of not playing in PSL 4, his views on Jofra Archer, his aims to prove himself in the shorter formats and why he feels that Pakistan are firm favourites to win the 2019 World Cup.
By Amir Husain (21st April, 2019)PakPassion.net: What's behind your decision to come to England to play for Sussex?
Mir Hamza: To start with, it was always my objective to play cricket in England for a few months. The idea was to play as an overseas cricketer in England and to learn and understand what is expected of an overseas professional. This experience would allow me to appreciate what sort of pressures are put on overseas professionals and how one can deal with them. This sort of exposure should really help improve the quality of my game. So, when Sussex made the offer, I really had no hesitation in saying yes as I had been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. They initially made an offer for 9 first-class matches which I agreed to, but then they said that they were willing to offer me a contract to play all of the 50-Over games this season as well. This was exactly what I was looking for, so I accepted this offer too. As I am used to flatter tracks back home, bowling on bowler-friendly tracks away from home does become easier so this will be a good opportunity for me to impress. Playing in England is a dream come true for me and I hope to leave for Pakistan in a few months’ time a transformed and better cricketer.PakPassion.net: What sort of differences do you note between English and Pakistan domestic cricket?
Mir Hamza: I can only speak about my experience with Sussex and I am assuming that the same must be true for other Counties too. What I have noted is that each player in our Sussex side knows exactly what is expected of them in terms of training and diet, without any prompting by the coaches. The players have such a level of maturity that they will come for training, carry out exactly what training and preparation they need to do without anyone standing over them to guide them. As for myself, Sussex have given me a free hand to prepare myself in the way I wish to do and I have access to some excellent support staff such as physiotherapists, batting and bowling coaches and we also have a video-analyst on call who can show you videos of your bowling. In short, they are taking care of each need of the players at Sussex and this must also be true elsewhere in other Counties too. PakPassion.net: How good an opportunity is this for you to learn from a coach such as Jason Gillespie?
Mir Hamza: I was obviously delighted when I first received the offer from Sussex, but I was doubly happy that the coach for Sussex, Jason Gillespie, was a former world-class fast-bowler himself. If there is one coach who can understand the psyche of another fast-bowler, then Jason Gillespie is that person for sure. His style of coaching is not to impose himself on others but to help them grow in a relaxed atmosphere which is how he has been treating me. In fact, it is I who approach him to ask for advice on how to bowl in different conditions. In return, his advice is so simple that it makes cricket look so easy to me and I really appreciate that. This is a great quality in any coach, and I am pleased to say that Jason Gillespie has all these attributes I have mentioned, and I am making good use of all interactions with him.
PakPassion.net: It must be a big honour playing at Sussex, a team that has seen some huge names in Pakistan cricket play for them in the past?
Mir Hamza: Our current Prime Minister and legend, Imran Khan has played for Sussex as has Mushtaq Ahmed who performed really well for the County too. In addition, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Umar Gul and Mohammad Akram have also played for Sussex. So, for me it’s indeed an honour that my name will also be mentioned along with names of such illustrious players whenever there is any discussion on the association of Pakistanis with Sussex. Of course, having the honour of my name being mentioned in such company is great but what will make it even more special is if I can put in some good performances during my time here with Sussex.PakPassion.net: Does Sussex have it in them to be promoted to Division 1 of the County Championship?
Mir Hamza: I have so far played two 4-Day games for Sussex in the County Championship and even though we lost the first game against Leicestershire, I can say that we have a very well-balanced squad. This extends to batting, fast-bowling, spin-bowling and fielding. From what I see, there is a hundred percent chance that we will be promoted to Division 1 as I feel that our side has the capability to achieve that. Each of our players is a good performer as we showed in our victory against Durham. This was a game being played in very difficult conditions against a side that is considered as being really strong and to beat them at their home shows clearly that Sussex are a well-balanced and capable side. One great thing about our side is that we do not rely on just one or two good players, instead we have the likes of Ollie Robinson, Chris Jordan, David Weise and myself – each of whom gets the side back on the winning track if we start to lose our way a bit. The same applies for our batsmen where Philip Salt, Stiaan van Zyl and our captain Ben Brown as well as Luke Wells have all been contributing. PakPassion.net: Are you disappointed that you have only played just one Test match so far for Pakistan?
Mir Hamza: My approach to cricket has always revolved around trying to improve myself with every game I play and playing one Test for Pakistan does not bother me in that sense. So, it doesn’t matter if I am playing Test cricket for Pakistan or not, my aim is to be able to perform well in any match I play and obviously when I do that, I would not be excluded from the Pakistan side or any other side for that matter. Every player obviously wishes to play for his country and what I intend do is to become so good at what I do that I become a necessity for the Pakistan side so that I am able to win games and take wickets in difficult times for my country. I am working very hard to achieve this goal and looking to improve my skills and once I have got to a certain stage, then I will come back into the Pakistan side and also become a dependable member of the side.PakPassion.net: How much of a set-back was it it not to be selected for the Pakistan Super League this year?
Mir Hamza: I have always maintained the view that a good player should always be involved in cricket. It doesn’t matter what level of cricket it is such as the national side, league matches, domestic games or a high-quality competition like the PSL, a cricketer cannot be sitting idle at any time of the year. So, this was a very tough pill to swallow for me when my peers were busy playing in the PSL this year and I was sitting at home watching these games on TV. Not playing the PSL this year was truly a difficult time for me but that is the exact reason why I have worked very hard this year to ensure that there is no reason for me to be ignored for Pakistan’s premier Twenty20 tournament again.PakPassion.net: There's a feeling that you seem more of a bowler suited for the longest format of the game?
Mir Hamza: There is no doubt about the fact that the speed at which One-Day and Twenty20 is played is much quicker than what happens in 4-Day or Test match cricket. People have bracketed me as a 4-Day and Test match bowler as they haven’t really seen me bowl in other formats and they have usually seen me bowl more in the 4-day format in domestic cricket. With my participation in one Test match and the fact that I am playing in County Cricket, there seems to be a perception that I can only do well in the longer formats. In a sense, looking at it in a positive manner, it’s a good thing that people say that I am a good 4-Day or Test quality bowler and I am performing well in these formats too. But I will add that my One-Day record has also been good. Recently, I took four wickets in my List A debut for Sussex and also in the past, my performances for departments, regions and on tours for Pakistan A have been very good. Unfortunately, those good performances have not been shown on TV as domestic games don’t get so much coverage. Also, in PSL 3, where I played three games for Quetta Gladiators, whereas my performances were not extraordinary, I do feel that I did a satisfactory job picking up 3 wickets for 95 runs. Having said that, the perception about me as a specialist 4-Day or Test player exists out there but it is my aim to show everyone that this is not true. I have a lot of belief in myself and as I did recently for Sussex, I will show everyone through my performances that I am also a good bowler in the One-Day and Twenty20 formats.PakPassion.net: What are your impressions about your Quetta Gladiators and Sussex team-mate, Jofra Archer? Do you feel he should be playing the World Cup for England?
Mir Hamza: From what I saw of him during PSL 3 when he played a few games for Quetta Gladiators with us, I really admire his bowling style as his action is clean, smooth and effortless and to be honest, it is difficult to understand how he can generate so much pace from that. He is a world-class bowler in terms of One-Day and the Twenty format as he also has the height and the variations which can trouble batsmen. It’s difficult to say whether he should be in the England World Cup squad or not as the fact is that England has other bowlers who are in the same class as Archer. So, understandably, there is a lot of competition for places but all I can say is that Jofra Archer is a world-class bowler who will definitely perform very well, if selected for England.PakPassion.net: Will the 5 ODIs that Pakistan play against England give them an advantage in the upcoming World Cup?
Mir Hamza: To get 5 ODIs in the same country as where Pakistan will be playing in the 2019 World Cup will certainly be advantageous for our side as all batsmen or bowlers, whether in form or not, will get a fair idea of how to score runs and get wickets in English conditions. As is, our morale will be very high because this Pakistan side has many players who won the Champions Trophy here in 2017. One can say that if Pakistan win the ODI series against England, the level of confidence will be sky-high, and they will start the World Cup in very good form.PakPassion.net: Do Pakistan have the capability to win the upcoming World Cup?
Mir Hamza: As someone who believes in his team, I would say that Pakistan are strong favourites to win the 2019 World Cup. The reason for this is also based on the fact that sides which have been able to get reverse-swing have done really well in England. Almost every fast-bowler in the Pakistan side is capable of bowling reverse swing. So, if we are unable to put up a good score then we have the type of bowlers who can restrict any side in the world to a low total and win the game. In terms of batting, we have batsmen such as Fakhar Zaman who can take the fight to the opposition right at the beginning of the innings. All of these factors make Pakistan firm favourites to win the World Cup.