Rise and rise of Zaman Khan

Rise and rise of Zaman Khan

Synopsis

The man from Azad Kashmir has created waves since his emergence in the KPL

Rise and rise of Zaman Khan
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Since the inception of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in 2016, it has become a norm that the tournament will give birth to a star every season that can rock the world stage.

In the previous six seasons, almost at least one player went on to represent Pakistan after performing at the PSL in the Emerging category. Moreover, those players became mainstays of Pakistan cricket and are seen as the top glowing stars of the country.

In the first season, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Shah Shah Afridi, Mohammad Hasnain, Shahnawaz Dahani and many others caught the attention of the authorities and made it into the top core of Pakistan cricket. This is what makes the glorious T20 league so special.

Season seven also highlighted a bowler with a Malinga-style ‘slingy’ pacer by the name of Zaman Khan, who seems to have all the potential to be the next bowling star of Pakistan.

 

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Walking to Mirpur everyday

Hailing from a small village of Chakswari in Mirpur District of Azad Kashmir, the 20-year-old possesses all the ingredients to be a successful campaigner at the highest stage.

Without any prior first-class experience, Zaman managed to tease batters of the highest quality in the PSL with his difficult round-arm action, pace, accuracy and intelligence.

Before making it big. The right-arm pacer had to overcome a lot of hurdles as the village where he lived did not have any facilities for cricket. Therefore, he had to take a long route to the city of Mirpur, where he impressed coaches and stakeholders.

However, like any other cricketer or cricket enthusiast in the country, Zaman also started playing with a tape ball.

“I was six when I used to watch locals play with a tape ball at the ground. One day I asked them to induct me,” Zaman said while talking to Bol News.

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It did not go well for the youngster as he gave away 13-14 extras in one over but managed to beat the batters, which was encouraging.

“One of the boys asked me to come next day again,” he recalled. “I didn’t bowl any extras the following day and also delivered a good over.”

It gave him the confidence to further pursue his passion and he continued playing tape-ball cricket.

Interestingly, Zaman didn’t have the privilege of having a television, so he was not even aware of something called cricket ball, or in layman terms, the hardball.

“I was playing with my madrasa’s friends when my brother came and handed me a cricket ball along with spikes. I asked him ‘What is this?’ he told me to practice with this for the upcoming trials,” he added.

Zaman had no support at the start from his family, except his brother Wazir Khan, who still works as a labourer.

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Wazir used to take Zaman on a motorcycle to the city when he could, otherwise, the budding cricketer used to travel the distance on foot.

The motivation for travelling to Mirpur was to get recognised by the coaches. Eventually, he became so habitual of walking all the way to the city that he refused his brother or his fellow cricketers’ offer of a ride.

“I had to travel every day after Fajr on foot from my village to the main city and had to do the same in the evening to travel back home,” he reminisced. “I had a belief that if I will cover the hard yards, Allah will help me. Even my colleagues offered me rides to the city and back but I was so fond of travelling by foot that I denied their favour.”

 

Road to Northern team

Coaches were taking trials for Northern U16 teams in all the clubs of Mirpur. Zaman appeared in the trials in his club, Eagle Cricket Club, and did not take long to impress the coaches and he was selected for the young team.

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Zaman received a massive boost when he was selected in the Pakistan U16 squad that toured Australia in 2018. It allowed him to play more cricket at the Northern U19 level for three years. Afterwards, he was promoted to the second XI courtesy of his impressive run at the junior level.

Despite playing with zeal and having a relatively successful time, Zaman had doubts regarding whether he was on the right path or he was making a mistake by choosing cricket as a career.

Even after playing at the U19 level, he was still wondering to continue playing or focus on other things. However, eventually, he made a firm decision of keeping all the negatives aside and work hard to achieve his dreams.

The young pacer had the first major push when he featured in the Kashmir Premier League (KPL). Zaman took part in trials for the domestic league and was inducted into Rawalakot Hawks.

He played under the leadership of Pakistan’s veteran all-rounder Shahid Afridi. He was phenomenal during the tournament, taking 10 wickets in six games, which promoted him to Northern’s first XI at the National T20 Cup.

“Northern’s first XI coach supported me a lot and provided me chances at the National T20 Cup. He had an eye on me after I claimed nine wickets in three games during the second XI tournament,” he added.

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The big opportunity

Zaman was hopeful that it will pave his way for more opportunities but didn’t know what was coming next for him.

Later, PSL franchise Lahore Qalandars, who are renowned for giving players to Pakistan through their Player Development Programme (PDP) and have produced pace sensation Haris Rauf, selected him during the drafts for PSL 7.

Qalandars’ move completely changed Zaman’s fortunes and put him in the spotlight for the stakeholders of Pakistan Cricket.

The 20-year-old pacer was unbelievably good during the whole campaign, where he was not overshadowed by the likes of his captain Shaheen Shah Afridi and Rauf. Instead, he won two player-of-the-match awards and ended up as third-highest wicket-taker, just behind Shaheen and Shadab Khan with 18 scalps.

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“Aaqib [Javed] Bhai watched me in KPL and at the National T20. After getting picked in PSL, I had a camp of 20 days at Qalandars’ high-performance centre,” he shared. “They took care of me and told me gently about my mistakes. Shaheen Bhai backed me a lot, which led me to good bowling performances.”

He also praised the role of his senior teammates like Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Hafeez who provided him with valuable advice.

“Shaheen is a star and he has quite an experience now. He shared his experience with us happily and we used to ask him. I learned discipline from Hafeez Bhai while Fakhar Bhai told me to sleep well as it will help me to perform in the game,” he revealed.

Zaman emphasised having worthy elements in the bowling arsenal of a pacer in the shortest format of the game. According to him, T20 cricket is a game of batters, but no matter how powerful a batter is, having varieties can unsettle anyone.

Meanwhile, Zaman also named two of his favourites wickets of his 18 PSL successes.

“One is Hussain Talat, where I deceived him with a slower one,” recalled Zaman. “Dismissing Rilee Rossouw in the final of PSL 7 is my second favourite wicket [of the tournament].”

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Aiming for Akhtar-like flying hair

Zaman also revealed that he always idolised Shoaib Akhtar, the fastest bowler ever to play the game of cricket. The impressive fast-bowler now wishes to increase the length of his hair just like Akhtar, which made many batters uncomfortable.

“I am watching Shoaib Akhtar from the start. I am now also trying to keep my hair long but they are not increasing,” Zaman said laughing. “Batters get scared when they see a bowler running in with long strands. I too wish I could run like Akhtar like when used to have that long run-up.”

After having a fair bit of success in the domestic circuit, Zaman is now aiming to represent the country in all three formats of the game.

“My focus is to play all three formats. A longer format allows you to play other limited-overs formats with ease,” believes Zaman. “I won’t stop working hard and will play whichever format I can. I aim to work even harder after the success in PSL and cement my place in the national team. Playing in leagues like Australia’s Big Bash would be ideal too,” he concluded.

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Simple wish

Living in a shack (jhopdi), Zaman now wishes to keep his family, especially his parents happy, with all the basic necessities of life.

“We are living in a jhopdi from the start. My wish is to provide my family members with a house where they can live peacefully,” he expressed. “Currently, at least 17 to 18 people are living in one house, so I will try to do as much as I can for my family and provide them with all possible things. As long as my parents are happy, I don’t want anything.”

The man hailing from Azad Kashmir is overwhelmed by the love he has received from people.

“Many people from across the country, and especially Kashmir, were happy about my performances. I can’t explain in words,” he said.

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Zaman is now taking part in his first-ever Pakistan Cup for Northern. His goal is to replicate his T20 performances in 50-over format too.

 

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