Karachi born Omair Bin Yousuf had a dream start to his First-class career when he hit 135 in his debut innings in 2018. Whilst the subsequent years did not yield the sort of performances the opening batter had hoped for, his persistence and hard-work got him selected by Quetta Gladiators in PSL 8 and his first First-class double-hundred in the recent Shaheens tour of Zimbabwe has reinforced his credentials as a promising prospect for Pakistan cricket.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Omair spoke about his career so far including his participation in PSL 8 and the Pakistan Shaheens tour of Zimbabwe, what impresses him most about his role models Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik, what he is looking to improve upon during the upcoming PCB Camp at the NHPC and his aspirations to play for Pakistan in all formats.
By Amir Husain (6 June, 2023)
PakPassion.net: Do you feel your career has gone according to plan since your debut in First-class cricket in 2018?
Omair Bin Yousuf: My First-class career started off very well as in my debut season I had 2 hundreds to my name, and I felt that the world was at my feet at that point. However, I do not feel I did justice to my talent in the subsequent seasons. Ups and downs are part of ones learning curve in this game and the main thing for me is that I have learnt much about my game during these seasons and I hopefully, I will be able to make marked improvements in my performances in future.
PakPassion.net: Scoring a century in the first innings of your First-class debut must have been hugely satisfying?
Omair Bin Yousuf: Your debut innings is always a memorable one but to score a century in the first innings and then help Karachi Whites to an innings victory in that game was an extra special occasion and is a memory that I will cherish forever.
PakPassion.net: Is the opening slot your preferred batting position?
Omair Bin Yousuf: To be honest, I love batting and it really does not matter which batting position I play in as I have batted at different positions during my career so far. Each batting position represents a different challenge, and this can vary in each match situation. So, to bat in different positions has been a great experience for a young player like me. I suppose I am lucky to have played at different positions and performed well when given the chance.
PakPassion.net: What sort of setbacks or challenges have you faced so far in your career?
Omair Bin Yousuf: I feel that as a player, one will face a variety of challenges in their career and in a sense, the experience of highs and lows helps you become a better person and a player. When you face setbacks and you recover from them and learn valuable lessons, then you are less likely to make the same mistakes or put yourself in situations where you could be at a disadvantage. For me, the biggest setbacks and those that have troubled me the most are the periods of time when I was not scoring runs, but I overcame those setbacks with hard-work and feel that the experience of such hardship has turned me into a better player.
PakPassion.net: Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik have always been your role models, what qualities do you admire about them?
Omair Bin Yousuf: I hold both players in high regard as both Shoaib Malik and Babar Azam are great players. They have dominated bowlers around the world and Babar Azam continues to do that even today. In fact, Babar Azam is in the top 5 in all rankings which is a great achievement. What I love about Babar is the way he stays on the wicket to score big and converts his fifties to hundreds which is exactly what I would like to do in my career. Babar's ability to play fast-bowlers with ease and the brilliant way in which Shoaib uses his feet to play spinners are qualities that I admire and want to emulate as well.
PakPassion.net: How was the experience of touring Zimbabwe recently with the Pakistan Shaheens squad?
Omair Bin Yousuf: It was a great honour to be part of the Shaheen’s tour as when they happen, they are a great chance for domestic players like me to take these opportunities and showcase our skills.
We were playing a near international side in the One-Day games, so the opportunity to gain experience was a huge one for all of us. The level of competition in the six One-Day games was brilliant as we were confronted with almost their international side. On top of that the games were broadcast live which made them extra special because you know that the world is watching your performances. I for one enjoyed the games immensely and had some excellent performances to show for my efforts as well including scores of 65, 153 and 89* and of course the one that I enjoyed the most, 250*, in the 4-Day game.
PakPassion.net: So now you have a First-class double hundred to your name , do you feel the sky is the limit when it comes to red-ball cricket?
Omair Bin Yousuf: I was absolutely overjoyed by my accomplishment in the 4-Day game versus Zimbabwe A. This was the highest ever score by a Pakistan A or Shaheens batter, and it came at a time when the side needed it most and it helped us defeat the hosts by 8 wickets. To me, apart from helping my side secure such a comprehensive win, the fact that I was able to convert a hundred into a double-hundred was a great achievement as I had been wanting to do that for a while and it was proving to be a frustration. But to do that on tour and in foreign surroundings has given me a lot of confidence for the future.
At this point, I must also thank our coaching staff who were instrumental in getting us ready for this tour and provided me with all the support I needed to perform well. They had told me that I was one of their main players and they expected good things from me which also gave me a lot of confidence, and I was glad that I was able to repay their trust in my abilities.
PakPassion.net: Speaking of coaching staff for Pakistan Shaheens, what was the experience of playing under the coaching of Aizaz Cheema?
Omair Bin Yousuf: Let me start by saying that I have never come across a calmer and more composed person than our Head Coach Aizaz Cheema. He created a friendly environment in our dressing room which made a huge difference to our team as we were relaxed and able to carry out our tasks without any stress. He was very careful in making sure that the players were given control of what they did best instead of imposing his own style of thinking on them. He worked extremely hard with us on this tour and I am really honoured to have had a chance to work under him as he also made the whole experience very enjoyable and one that we will always remember for a long time to come.
PakPassion.net: How was your first experience in the 2023 edition of the Pakistan Super League?
Omair Bin Yousuf: This was my debut year at the PSL and it was like a dream come true because like most youngsters, I had been hoping to play in this tournament and I finally got my chance. This is a tournament which is as close to international cricket as possible for players like me and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being part of the Quetta Gladiators squad.
I got two chances to play and the feeling of playing in tense match situations, in front of large crowds and in games which were being televised the world over was simply awesome. The pressure of playing in PSL games, as many other international players have said as well, is the same as when they are playing international games so this is a huge stage for younger and inexperienced players to come and showcase their talents.
As for me, while I waited on the side-lines for my chance, I was working out in my mind how I would play under these game conditions, so I was mentally prepared when my chance to debut for Quetta came in the group game against Karachi Kings.
PakPassion.net: On that topic, talk us through that PSL innings of 67* you played against Multan Sultans?
Omair Bin Yousuf: This was a game which is etched in my mind as it was a very tough game against the eventual finalists and very important for me, in terms of learning experience. We had a huge target of 263 to chase against a top-class bowling attack with the likes of Ihsanullah, Abbas Afridi and Usama Mir who had been firing on all cylinders throughout the tournament.
In fact, at one point we lost 3 wickets for 68 but along the way I had 2 excellent partnerships, one with Martin Guptill and then with Iftikhar Ahmed which took us on the right path in this very difficult chase. Eventually we lost the game by a margin of 9 runs which given the size of the target was amazing. As for me, my aim was to provide the best base for the players following me in the order but do it at a very good strike rate, which is what I achieved as I scored 67 in 36 balls.
Although this was my second game in the PSL, it was a high intensity game, and in front of a very lively crowd which made it a huge challenge but enjoyable as well. The applause after every good shot I played and the appreciation by the crowd throughout my innings was very pleasing and gave me a lot of confidence. These are the kinds of games we as cricketers live for and I was lucky to be part of it.
PakPassion.net: Playing under Sarfaraz Ahmed with Quetta Gladiators must have been a great experience?
Omair Bin Yousuf: Even before playing for Quetta, I had already spent a lot of time with Sarfaraz as a player and also played under him as captain, so the experience of playing under his captaincy was not new to me in the PSL. He is a wonderful human being and he has a great relationship with the players on and off the field. Personally speaking, I really enjoy playing under Sarfaraz as he really supports his players and gives them confidence to always do better.
PakPassion.net: You are part of the NCA training camp ahead of the upcoming tour of Sri Lanka, what do you expect to gain from it and what areas do you wish to work upon to improve?
Omair Bin Yousuf: This is the first time I have been called up to a camp which is preparing players for an international assignment, so I am very pleased and excited about it. The idea is to go in there to improve my skill set and test my skills against some high performing international players and get the guidance of our top coaches as well. These types of camps are essential for the development of a player if one wishes to play at the highest level. What I will be looking for is to play more fluently and improve my footwork against fast-bowlers and also get my feet moving quicker against spinners. Of course, I will be open to any other suggestions from the experienced coaches in the camp.
PakPassion.net: Given your experience and how you have performed in the recent past, do you feel you are ready for Test cricket?
Omair Bin Yousuf: Yes, I am all set to go in Tests based upon my experience and technical skills. I will be ready to respond if I am asked to play Tests soon. Mentally and skill wise I have all it takes to play for Pakistan not just in Tests but in any other format because I love this game and am prepared to bat at any position.
PakPassion.net: And finally, what has been the best advice you have received so far in your career, something you keep in mind every time you go out to play?
Omair Bin Yousuf: I feel that the wise words of Mohammad Hafeez who was our senior player with Quetta Gladiators in PSL 8 are ones that I repeat to myself. He told us that if we wish to play cricket at the highest level then the only way to do that is to constantly look to improve oneself. One must look to upgrade skills at every opportunity and these are words that are stuck in my head. Hafeez felt that one had to look to add-on new skills or look to always improve current skills or else you would stagnate.
Just performing well is not enough but you need to assess how you can further improve yourself. This advice is one that is my guiding light and hopefully based on this, I will be able to continue to improve myself.