Speaking exclusively to PakPassion.net, the 17-year old left-arm paceman from Lahore expressed his admiration for his role model Wasim Akram, discussed the comparisons with Mohammad Amir and looked ahead to the upcoming U-19 tour of England
Pakistan’s rich pace bowling resources have been a source of national pride for many decades. Names such as Fazal Mahmood, Khan Mohammad, Sarfraz Nawaz, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Mohammad Zahid and Shoaib Akhtar just roll off the tongue, bringing back memories of stumps being cartwheeled out of the ground, inswinging yorkers and batsmen dancing to the tune of chin music.
More recently, the baton has passed to Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan, but beyond this current list of names, fans of fast bowling will be pleased to hear that the Pakistani pace bowling factory is very much in full working order. A recent fast bowling camp in Karachi run by Wasim Akram brought together some of the brightest fast bowling talent in Pakistan and gave these up and coming pace bowlers the opportunity to work with one of the world’s greatest bowlers.
One of the young bowlers who received glowing reports after attending the training camp was Lahore born teenager Mohammad Aftab. Another in the battery of left arm pace bowlers, Aftab came to the attention of the watching public when he bowled excellently for the Lahore Lions against Abbottabad in the hugely popular Super Eights Twenty20 tournament earlier this year. Bowling with good pace and accuracy, Aftab took one for 27 from four sharp overs, as Lahore won by three wickets.
Speaking exclusively to PakPassion.net, Aftab expressed his admiration for his role model Wasim Akram, provided his thoughts on the training camp in Karachi, spoke about the comparisons with Mohammad Amir and looked ahead to the upcoming Under 19 tour of England.
“I’m from a cricket loving family. Cricket has always played a large role in my life. If I wasn’t playing cricket on the street, in the park, at the local cricket club, I would be reading about it or watching it on television. I’ve been lucky enough to have fantastic support from my family since I started playing cricket and also been very fortunate to have brilliant coaches to work with at club level and now in first class cricket.”
Aftab who was born on 14th August, Pakistan’s Independence Day, stated that his cricketing hero is Wasim Akram and that he models his bowling on the former Pakistani captain. “I think I’ve watched and studied every single available DVD of Wasim Akram’s bowling. He was a great bowler, he’s a legend and I dream of one day achieving a fraction of what he achieved for Pakistan. It was an absolute honour working with him at the training camp in Karachi and I cherished every moment. To meet him and then for him to praise my bowling was stuff that dreams are made of.”
16 year old Aftab confirmed that he was drafted in at the last moment to play in the Super Eights tournament in March after originally not being in the squad. However after playing that match for the Lahore Lions, his life quite literally changed overnight.
“I wasn’t included in the Lahore Lions squad originally but I was drafted in at the last minute. When I was told that I was playing against Abbottabad I was surprised but at the same time very excited. It all happened so quick that I thought I was dreaming. Playing the match against Abbottabad which was televised was a great experience and I was pleased with my performance. I received a lot of support before and during the match against Abbottabad as for a sixteen-year old to be playing in such a high profile match was quite an ask. Since that match, a lot of people within Pakistan cricket have spoken about me and praised my bowling which is really motivating and pleasing. Bowling in front of a huge television audience helped me catch the eye of some of Pakistan’s leading coaches and I’ve had a lot of support since that match.”
Speaking of the training camp that he attended under the supervision of Mohammad Akram and Wasim Akram, Aftab said “Being called up to attend the camp was a superb experience. I was there with some of Pakistan’s best bowlers and two excellent coaches, both of whom have years of experience playing cricket all around the world. To be given that opportunity by the Pakistan Cricket Board was a humbling experience as I’ve never thought of myself as someone deserving of such treatment at the moment. Wasim spoke at length to me about ensuring that I have the inswinger and the outswinger in my bowling armoury, as he said that being a one trick pony means that top batsmen will work me out and I will not be as effective. Wasim spent a lot of time with me working on my wrist position for both deliveries and he said to me that he had watched me bowling in domestic cricket and was impressed. My natural delivery is the inswinger to the right handers and Wasim spent a lot of time with me working on the one that swings away. After watching Wasim and listening to his advice I felt more confident bowling the one that moves away from the right hander and it wasn’t long before his advice started working.”
“Mohammad Akram also offered me a lot of advice and guidance and he particularly focussed on working on my yorkers and consistency in line. He was also impressed with the speed that I was achieving at my age. On the speed gun, I was consistently being clocked at 135kph and over and i think those speeds will be improved upon as I grow stronger and with more technical guidance.”
Naturally Aftab’s bowling style and impressive pace have already brought comparisons with fellow left arm pace bowler Mohammad Amir, something that Aftab isn’t surprised about but is a little uneasy over.
“I look at the comparisons in two ways. Firstly Amir was a fantastic talent, at such a young age he showed the world what a gifted bowler he was. I’m yet to even begin my first class career so saying I am the next Mohammad Amir is a bit premature. Also I don’t want to be compared to anybody, he is Mohammad Amir and I am Mohammad Aftab. A lot of people watch me bowl and immediately start comparing me with Amir, but I would much rather they didn’t, I don’t want to be compared with Mohammad Amir, I want to make a name for myself through hard work, achieving my own goals, rather than making a name as someone who is being labelled the new Mohammad Amir.”
Aftab has been included in Pakistan’s Under-19 squad that will next month take part in a 50 over tri nation tournament in England that includes the hosts and Bangladesh Under-19s. The tournament is one that Aftab is excited about and hopes will help his development as a cricketer and set him on the road to stardom.
“Seeing my name in the squad for England was really exciting. I was hoping that I would be included but competition for places was really intense and I wasn’t sure that I would be picked. However having been named in the squad I now have some targets in mind. I want to be named "Man of the Series" and I want to make sure that I learn from bowling in English conditions. It’s an important tournament in my development and I hope it’s the first stepping stone in a long and fruitful career.”