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Exclusive Interviews

The fast-bowler spoke about the injury he suffered in late 2016 and talked about his current progress and hopes of making an international comeback.

By Amir Husain (19th October, 2017)

Considered as one of the likeliest candidates to pick up the mantle of Pakistan’s top fast-bowlers, at a time when the scarcity of fast bowling reserves was a source of concern for Pakistan’s team, Mohammad Talha has played just 4 Tests and 3 ODIs. The right-arm fast-bowler made his international debut in 2009 in the ill-fated second Test of the home series against Sri Lanka and was side-lined for almost 4 years before he was picked again for a handful of international games before suffering the ignominy of being discarded again.

Now fully recovered from an injury he suffered in late 2016, the fast-bowler spoke exclusively to PakPassion.net about his current progress, “Last year I played for Rawalpindi but I had some issues with my fitness but with God’s Grace, I am fine now and am playing for Faisalabad at the moment in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. The wickets have been a little dead where I have played but hopefully I should be able to get more success when I play next in the 5th round of the tournament in Islamabad.”

 

 
 



Whilst injuries to fast-bowlers are common, the rumours of Talha facing career-threatening fitness issues may well have been over-exaggerated and possibly put in place to hamper his return to international cricket but the fast-bowler remains unfazed and focused on his goals as he explained.

“It wasn’t a serious injury, just a problem with painful abdominal muscles but I feel I am back in the game now with a good rhythm to help me out. I sometimes feel that this whole injury issue was made into a big one to prevent me from making a comeback in international cricket. I am fully fit again and raring to go. We all know what the PCB can do to bring people back in but in my case, there has been no such effort made. I am afraid there is a lobby system for inclusion in the Pakistan team and I suppose, there is no lobby for me. But I am not worried, I will continue to work hard and see where that takes me.”

Since the retirement of Shoaib Akhtar, Pakistan has yearned for an express fast-bowler. Whilst in recent times Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali have bowled fast, the general feeling remains that Pakistan are in need of quicker bowlers who can blow away opposition. Talha, once himself regarded as capable of attaining express speeds feels that pace is over-emphasized and cannot take the place of a well-directed bowling effort, “My pace has never been an issue as I am a bowler who depends on rhythm. When I am on song, I can hit 145Kph too. However, apart from pace, what I have done over the past few years is to perfect my line and length which is the real secret to taking wickets. There is no point spraying the ball all over the place at high speed as that just won’t help your team when wickets are needed.”

Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali’s recent fitness issues are prime examples of the challenges that fast-bowlers of today face due to busy unforgiving schedules and the extra effort required to perform on tough playing surfaces. Whilst, at the national level, resources exist for taking good care of Pakistan players, no such facilities or help exists for players at the lower levels and players have usually have to fend for themselves when faced with fitness issues or injuries.

“From my personal experience, I can say that when I was unfit and injured, there was no one to help me recover from my injury issues. I had to take it upon myself to work out in the gym and to improve my diet. There really is no system in Pakistan to help players when they get injured or have fitness issues. This is not the same in England or Australia where experts are available at all levels of cricket to help players fix themselves or to guide them so that they don’t get injuries in the future. There is very little idea of diagnosing problems and helping players in recovery. This sort of help only exists at the NCA in Lahore whilst everywhere else, its every man for himself. What we should have at the regional or city level is a staff of proper trainers who go to the gym with the player and help him train properly. If this can be done, then you will see the number of injuries come down and also chances of future injury will be reduced as well.”

The mild-mannered Talha seemed to have begun his international career with a lot of promise but then seemed to hit a brick wall when it came to selection for the national team. He may be disappointed with the way things have turned out for him but he is still able to recall some bright moments in his career with some fondness, “I am of course proud of my role for Pakistan whenever I was given a chance. In fact, the memorable game against India in the 2014 Asia Cup where I took two wickets will always be dear to me but then my career did not take off as it should have. It seems that Waqar Younis who was our coach then had some problems with me as he refused to give me the chances I feel I deserved. My career just could not get the lift it needed as I was played in just 3 more Tests after my debut and even that did not happen in sequence but at different times which broke my momentum.”

As those with any knowledge of the inner-workings of Pakistan cricket will understand, selection for the national team is not always based on pure merit and can involve an element of luck in terms of being noticed by the selectors and coaches. For Talha, such a seminal moment may have come when he came in contact with the Pakistan Head Coach recently.

“I am now 29 years old and I feel these are my best years as a fast-bowler. The next 3-4 years are crucial for me to make a mark in domestic and international cricket if fate so desires. I am very happy by the fact that when I was in a camp recently, Mickey Arthur really appreciated my bowling and said some encouraging words to me which really fills me with hope. I bowled almost an hour and a half in his presence and he told me that he was impressed by me and would mention my name to selectors for a possible place in the Pakistan team in the future. Although I am yet to speak to the Chief Selector Inzamam-ul-Haq, I am still hopeful that Mickey’s recommendation will help me in the future.”

The advent of the Pakistan Super League has changed the landscape of Pakistan cricket for the best and it is no surprise that all aspiring as well as seasoned cricketers are now looking for an opportunity to play in this high-profile tournament. With six franchises now part of the 2018 edition of the PSL, Talha is also hoping that he will be noticed and picked to play in Pakistan’s premier Twenty20 tournament.

“I haven’t actually spoken to any one team in the PSL about a possible place in one of the six franchises but I have heard that Multan Sultans may be interested in taking me on. But, to be honest, I am not too worried about that and have left it to the Almighty as all I can do is continue to work hard and hope that someone will take notice of my skills and take me on a PSL team.”

Mohammad Talha’s international career has been stunted by his inability to find a place in the national team but all that could change for the better if he can put in an impressive show in the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam trophy. Talha knows that only with some exceptional performances will the selectors take notice of his abilities and there is no real substitute for hard-work to reach his goals, “Whilst I am working hard and looking to find my way back to the national team in the future, my immediate task is to try and get up to 20-40 wickets in the remaining games of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy tournament. I have been a little unlucky so far as the Faisalabad wickets where I have played have not been too friendly for fast-bowlers but am hoping that my fortunes will change when I next play for Faisalabad in Islamabad where I should be able to take more wickets and put in performances which the national selectors will not be able to ignore”, he concluded.

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