Rigours, resolve and 17 overs on the trot: How Aamir Jamal earned Test spot
Karachi, 8 July 2023:
“There are no shortcuts in life,” Aamir Jamal tells PCB Digital after his selection in the Pakistan Test side for the tour of Sri Lanka this month. “There is a certain process that one has to go through and it is only after that one truly values his achievements.”
Aamir had a stop-start beginning to his competitive cricket career. He had an impressive inter-regional U19 tournament in 2014 when he took 30 wickets at 16.97 in five matches after which he was named in Pakistan’s squad for an U19 series against Afghanistan in Lahore.
It would take him four years from there to break into first-class cricket with a debut for Pakistan Television in 2018, before he became a regular feature in domestic circuit from the 2020-21 season as he began to turn out for Northern regularly.
Aamir captured the imagination of the entire nation through an immaculate last over when he defended 15 against an in-form Moeen Ali in Lahore to help Pakistan attain 3-2 lead over England in the historic seven-match T20 International series.
Following the series, Aamir, now aspiring for a spot in the Test side, rushed north to join his domestic side in Abbottabad for the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.
“It [getting selected in the Test side] is meaningful for me,” the 27-year-old says. “I was told by the national selectors that a spot is up for grabs in the Test side. I had missed the first two first-class matches of the season because of the T20I series so I went straight to my domestic team without any rest. The head coach (Ijaz Ahmed) gave me the option of resting, but I told him that I wanted to play as much first-class cricket as I could and I wanted to make it to the Test side for the two upcoming series [against England and New Zealand].
“I wanted to finish as the best all-rounder of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and that desire never let me sit out any match despite being provided opportunities to opt out with no consequences on our qualification for the final.”
Though Aamir had to wait a while for this call-up, he went on to finish as the best fast bowler and the second best overall in the tournament and played an integral role in his team securing their maiden first-class title as he took 31 wickets at 29.71 in nine matches and also recorded the best figures of the season.
“That is one first-class performance that I have enjoyed the most,” Aamir relishes as he recalls 4 November 2022 when he took eight Balochistan wickets in an extraordinary 17-over-long spell at the Abbottabad Cricket Stadium.
“I couldn’t get going in my first spell. When I returned to the attack I bowled 17 overs on the trot. My bowling coach Sami [ullah Niazi] bhai was calling me from the dressing room to stop, but I did not because I had my eyes fixated on a spot in the Test side. I started to bowl really well – I got one wicket, then two, then three and so on. When I got five wickets, Sami bhai told me to rest, but I said, ‘it is now that I have started to enjoy bowling’. I ended up bowling 15 overs and I bowled with uniform pace throughout.
“As I took eight wickets, Sami bhai told me to give ninth scalp a go, so I bowled two more overs. Then Ijaz bhai jumped in and told me to rest as we had more matches ahead of us.”
Aamir finished with eight for 120 as the match ended in a draw.
He recently toured Zimbabwe with Pakistan Shaheens and displayed impressive bowling skills. The right-arm seamer was the leading wicket-taker in the six-match one-day series with 16 scalps at 21 - with a five-wicket haul in the second match – and returned three for 51 and two for 45 in his side’s win in the second first-class match, the only four-day game he played on tour.
Born in Mianwali, but raised in Islamabad, the Aamir Jamal of today has been shaped by the hardships he had to endure between 2014 and 2018.
“I did not play any substantial cricket for four years after playing U19 in 2014. I only got a few grade-II matches in a couple of seasons. I went to Australia upon being invited by someone who had come to play at our club. He was impressed with my work ethic and offered me a sponsorship. During the season in Australia, I got to know about an upcoming Pakistan U23 tour and I immediately came back as I could not let go of my love for Pakistan.
“I had pinned hopes on making an impact in the upcoming grade-II season, but I was not selected by any side. So I bought a car on bank lease and registered myself with ride-hailing services as I had to run my home. There was not much support from my family either so now I had to earn, to keep my house running, and give time to my training.
“For two years, right after Fajar (dawn) prayers I used to get online and start working. From five until ten-thirty in the morning, when people are going to offices, colleges and universities, I used to have my first shift, after which I bowled for two hours without any rest. After having a bit of food, whatever I could get my hands on, I used to bat and field.
“Around three in the afternoon until seven in the evening, I used to get online for my second shift as that is when offices, schools and colleges are getting off. After seven, I used to take an hour out for gym, following which I used to have my third shift that continued until midnight. Most of the times when I got home everyone used to be asleep.
“This struggle instilled punctuality in me and I started to value things. When you are forced to work hard and earn things, you value them.”
He has been driven by a desire to learn. When Pakistan and Sri Lanka played the first Test in Rawalpindi in 2019, Aamir pushed to be a net bowler so he could closely study the skill level of the players in the national side and bridge the gap between his own abilities and theirs by enhancing his skills. In the recent fast bowling camp at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore, he put in extra overs to ready himself for the challenges he may face in Sri Lanka.
“An all-rounder has a lot of workload and I have always prepared myself keeping that in mind. I never miss a day of training at the NCA, so I continue to give ample time to my bowling and batting.
“Even during the recent fast bowling camp, I put in extra overs to train hard so the conditions don’t pose a challenge for me in Sri Lanka. I consulted senior players on what to expect there and Imam [ul Haq] told me that it is more difficult for fast bowlers in Sri Lanka as compared to others and I need to prepare myself mentally for that as well, because if one gives up mentally, your body stops responding.”
The process has prepared him for the rigours of Test cricket and Aamir has his eyes set on making his Test debut as exciting as the T20I.
Pakistan Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has formed a high-level committee, headed by Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto, to decide on the national cricket team's participation in the 2023 ODI World Cup in India. The committee will explore and discuss all aspects of Pakistan and India relations, the government's policy of keeping sports and policy apart, and the situation in India for the players, officials, fans, and media before submitting its recommendations to Sharif. The Prime Minister is also the patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Cricket Board.
Both the International Cricket Council and host BCCI have already announced the World Cup schedule and expect Pakistan to travel to India for the 50-over showpiece beginning October 5.
The PCB, however, has conveyed to them that the national team's participation in the premier event is subject to government clearance due to the tense relations between the two countries.
Other committee members include Sports Minister Ahsan Mazari, Maryam Aurangzeb, Asad Mahmood, Amin ul Haq, Qamar Zaman Kaira, and former diplomat Tariq Fatmi.
The concerned ministers have already indicated to the PCB that a high-level security delegation would be sent to India to inspect the venues where Pakistan's matches are scheduled.
The acting chairman of the board, Zaka Ashraf, and chief operating officer, Salman Taseer are also due to leave for Durban on Saturday night to attend the ICC meetings where it is expected that Ashraf would be discussing India's repeated refusal to send its team to Pakistan citing security reasons.
The much-awaited World Cup game between India and Pakistan will be staged at the world's largest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad on October 15.
Pakistan will play their two warm-up games in Hyderabad before taking on Netherlands and Sri Lanka in their opening two World Cup matches at the same venue.
The team is also scheduled to play in Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata.
Both India and Pakistan only play each other in Asia Cup or ICC events.
Babar Azam speaking at a presser ahead of Pakistan's 2-Test tour of Sri Lanka:
"Sarfaraz bhai performed really well in last series. He will be my first choice as [wicketkeeper]."
"However, we will make a final decision after reaching there and looking at the combination. We will select the best possible team.”
"I don’t think it is necessary [for a vice-captain to be in the playing XI]. If a vice-captain doesn’t play, then it doesn’t really have any sort of effect. We will select the playing XI based on conditions.”
Babar Azam speaking at a presser:
"We are going to play World Cup not only against India. There are nine other teams as well with whom we have to play our respective matches. We will only be able to reach finals once we defeat all of them."
"Our focus is not on one team; our focus is on ten teams altogether. Our plan is to play equally good against all ten teams so that we can reach the finals."
"Our stance is to play cricket regardless of the venues because, as a professional, you have to be ready for everything, including different conditions and different environments. This is what the real challenge is."
"Our main aim is to dominate, represent Pakistan and bag the victory, not only securing a win against one particular team."
The federal government has appointed Zaka Ashraf as the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Management Committee on Wednesday.
The federal government approved the formation of the committee through the circulation of a summary.
The 10-member committee has been placed in charge for a period of four months.
A new chief election commissioner has also been appointed with Mahmood Iqbal replacing Ahmed Shehzad Farooq Rana.
The new committee have already scheduled their first meeting which will take place on Thursday (July 6) in Lahore.
The names of the 10-member committee are as follows:
Zaka Ashraf (chairman), Kaleem Ullah Khan, Ashfaq Akhtar, Musaddiq Islam, Azmat Parvez, Zaheer Abbas, Khurram Karim Somroo, Khuwaja Nadeem, Mustafa Ramday and Zulfiqar Malik.
Earlier, the Lahore High Court lifted the stay order on the election for the chairman of PCB on Monday (July 3).
Mr Zaka Ashraf chaired the first meeting of Pakistan Cricket Board’s Management Committee today at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore. Director National Cricket Academy Zakir Khan and other officers warmly welcomed Zaka Ashraf on his arrival. At the beginning of the meeting, all the members of the management committee unanimously expressed their full confidence in Zaka Ashraf.
The members said that they will work together with Zaka Ashraf for the betterment of cricket, the appointment of Zaka Ashraf as Chairman Management Committee will bring laurels for Pakistan cricket. In the meeting, Chief Financial Officer Javed Murtaza briefed the members of the committee on the PCB’s budgetary affairs. The chairman of the management committee was also briefed on important issues including the constructions of stadia, central contracts of players.
Addressing the members, Mr Zaka Ashraf said that his prime focus will be on the improvement of cricket and cricketers. He also emphasised on bringing transparency in the affairs of the cricket board. He provided reassurance to the members that grievances regarding the elections of the Regions and Associations will be redressed and he guaranteed transparent elections for the Regions and Associations.
Also, facilities will be improved for cricket fans which include upgradation of hospitality boxes and bringing improvement in Abbottabad, Hyderabad and Mirpur stadiums. Also keeping in mind, the longstanding desire of the cricket fans of Peshawar, the early completion of Arbab Niaz Stadium should be ensured so that the fans of Peshawar can also enjoy HBL PSL matches.
Mr Zaka Ashraf mentioned that they will give full attention on the improvement of cricket and on the upcoming matters related to ACC Asia Cup and ICC World Cup.
During the meeting, Chairman also directed the Chief Operating Officer Salman Naseer to provide Inter-Provincial Coordination Ministry data for the audit.
At the end of the meeting, the management committee approved Mr Zaka Ashraf, Mr Salman Naseer and Mr Faisal Hasnain as the PCB representatives to participate in the ICC meeting.
Saud Shakeel speaking at a presser:
“Sri Lanka have quality spinners and they know about their playing conditions. We will have to play our best cricket [to beat them],”
“I have played in Sri Lanka before as well but they were on different grounds. The conditions of the ground will be different this time but the weather will help us in adjusting to them,”
“Playing for Yorkshire was very beneficial. As a player, every player is trying to enhance their skills. We have quality spinners as well.
“I always try to perform better in Tests so I can make my way into ODIs as well but as of now, I’m only thinking about Test cricket.
“BazBall is England’s brand, our management have told us to play modern cricket, which is our way,”
Fakhar Zaman in an interview
Speaking about the toughest bowlers he has faced.
“I think Mohammad Amir is the toughest bowler. He does not trouble you with pace but he just does not give you room,”
About his record as a batter of three consecutive highest scores for Pakistan in ODIs.
“I am thankful to Almighty Allah that I feature thrice in the top four of the highest individual scores for Pakistan,”
“But I think, the players that are coming [to the international level] can break this record soon by the will of Almighty Allah and I will be very happy because they will do it for Pakistan,"
2,252 runs at an average north of 68. Eight centuries – including a highest score of 311 in his debut season – and eight half-centuries in 38 innings. A strike-rate touching 70.
These statistics encapsulate the first-class career – just two seasons long – of 21-year-old Mohammad Huraira who has earned a maiden call-up to the Pakistan squad for the two-Test tour of Sri Lanka this month.
Huraira’s was a dream start to a first-class career. He shot to prominence in his debut Quaid-e-Azam Trophy season in 2021-22 by becoming the second youngest batter to record a triple-century in first-class cricket on Pakistani soil after legendary Javed Miandad. He scored 311 runs at a cruising rate of over 90 with 40 fours and four sixes to help his side Northern thump Balochistan by an innings and 170 runs at the State Bank Ground in Karachi.
He finished that iteration as the leading run-getter and was the only batter to breach the 1,000-run mark in the next. In the 22 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches, over the last two years, Huraira has the most runs for a batter with 2,010 at 65.
His clinical performances through solid technique, sound temperament and wide array of strokes has turned many heads and helped him board a plane to Zimbabwe for a Pakistan Shaheens tour recently where he made a century and a half-century in two innings across two first-class matches with the tourists winning both.
“I never fixate myself on results, rather I make sure that I follow the process and tick all the boxes both on and off the field,” Huraira tells Salman Ali Agha in a special PCB Digital interview. “Topping the charts in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy was never on my mind. It was my process – which is sticking to my fitness regime through training and diet and making sure that I give my 100 per cent on the field – that helped me achieve it.
“Patience is key in red-ball cricket. You cannot switch off as the conditions are challenging and they continue to evolve with each passing hour. You need to have a sharp mind to score runs. Self-awareness is of utmost importance as knowing your strengths and weaknesses help you in match situations.”
Huraira has had this ability of finding runs right from the teenage. A product of Pakistan Cricket Board’s age-group programme, he had an outstanding U19 season in 2019 when he finished the U19 one-day tournament with the most runs (342) and three-day tournament with the third most. Upon being rewarded with a spot in the Pakistan side for the ICC Men’s U19 Cricket World Cup in South Africa in 2020, Huraira scored a half-century on debut against Afghanistan and took two catches for which he was named player of the match.
While he comes from a prestigious lineage of Sialkot batters who have left an indelible mark, Huraira also had a role model in former Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik in his family. “My uncle [Shoaib Malik] has been a motivation for me. Seeing him play at the highest level for such a long period gave me that boost that I can also follow his example. I have healthy discussions with him about cricket, and life in general. He has helped me in my career.”
Huraira is currently successfully juggling between an associate degree programme in accounting and finance from the University of Sialkot and top-flight cricket. “The university provides me relaxation for cricket so that helps me in pursuing cricket,” he says.
For Huraira, however, who has 10 List A matches and six T20 games to add to his 24 first-class matches, the Test selection is an opportunity to materialise his dreams. “It is everyone’s dream to represent Pakistan at the highest level so I am very excited. I spoke to my family and they all were very happy. It is all because of the prayers of my parents. This is just a beginning. I want to play for Pakistan for a long time.”
ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 finalists will go head to head in May 2024 in the United Kingdom in the build-up to the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 in the West Indies and the United States of America (USA).
World champions England will host Pakistan in a four-T20I series from 22-30 May before both the sides will depart for the tournament. The matches will be played in Leeds (22 May), Birmingham (25 May), Cardiff (28 May) and The Oval, London (30 May).
England had defeated Pakistan by five wickets with one over to spare in the T20 World Cup 2022 final in Melbourne. Prior to the Australia event, Pakistan had hosted England for a seven-match T20I series in Karachi and Lahore with the visitors winning by 4-3. England is ranked second on the ICC T20I Team Rankings, while Pakistan is ranked fourth – five points behind.
Before arriving in the UK, Pakistan will play a three-T20I series against the Netherlands and two-T20I series against Ireland, details of which will be announced in due course.
In addition to the men’s side, Pakistan women’s squad will also tour England in May 2024 for three T20Is and three ICC Women’s Championship 2022-25 fixtures.
The tour will commence with the first T20I in Birmingham on 11 May with the remaining two matches in Northampton (17 May) and Leeds (19 May). Derby, Taunton and Chelmsford will stage the three ODIs on 23, 26 and 29 May, respectively.
England is ranked second and Pakistan seventh in the ICC Women’s T20I Team Rankings, while Pakistan (10 points) is currently third in the ICC Women’s Championship 2022-25 and England seventh (six points) with one less series of three ODIs. England’s third series in the Championship is against Australia from 12-18 July.
The series against England will be Pakistan women’s last series in the ICC Women’s Championship 2022-25. They will kick-start their 2023-24 season by hosting South Africa in Karachi from 1-14 September, which will be followed by series against Bangladesh (October/November, away), New Zealand (November/December, away) and West Indies (April/May, home).
In the three ICC Women’s Championship 2022-25 series to date, Pakistan have defeated Sri Lanka (2-1) and Ireland (3-0), while they were beaten 3-0 by world champions Australia earlier this year.
Pakistan to England 2024
11 May: 1st T20I – Edgbaston, Birmingham
17 May: 2nd T20I – The County Ground, Northampton
19 May: 3rd T20I – Headingley, Leeds
23 May: 1st ODI –Derby
26 May: 2nd ODI –Taunton
29 May: 3rd ODI – Chelmsford
LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday withdrew its stay order against the election of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman.
Last week, the LHC had stayed the election of PCB chairman and sought replies from the federal government and other respondents in two identical petitions before two separate benches.
During the hearing, the PCB lawyer said several petitions against the PCB elections were pending with Justice Shahid Karim, adding that the judge had not issued any verdict. He said it would be appropriate to consolidate all the identical petitions before one judge to avoid complex decisions.
The court after hearing both the sides at length vacated the stay order and sent the petition to Chief Justice asking him to consolidate all the petitions against the election of the PCB Chairman.
The petitioner further contended that the PCB election commissioner unlawfully dissolved the board of governors which was lawfully established by the management committee of the cricket governing body.
He said the election commission unlawfully constituted a new board of governors only to engineer the election of PCB chief. He pleaded the court to declare the election commissioner’s action as illegal.
The elections for the new PCB chairman were scheduled for June 27 after chief of the interim management committee Najam Sethi stepped down. An interim management committee member, Gul Muhammad Kakar, had challenged the elections before the Balochistan High Court.