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Fakhar Zaman is man of the moment for Pakistan

Fakhar Zaman isn’t the usual teenager turning giant-killer story that Pakistan often comes up with.

Published: 19th June 2017 02:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th June 2017 02:04 PM   |  A+A-

Pakistan's Fakhar Zaman waves his bat to the crowd as he leaves the field after he was dismissed for 114 runs during the ICC Champions Trophy final between Pakistan and India at the Oval in London. | AP

By Express News Service

LONDON: Fakhar Zaman had not played even one ODI before he arrived at the Champions Trophy. One of the changes that Pakistan made in their eleven after the opening loss to India, he responded with scores of 31, 50, 57 and 114. Another classic example of an obscure talent making it big when it really matters. But, at 27, Fakhar isn’t the usual teenager turning giant-killer story that Pakistan often comes up with.

Prior to the 2016-17 first-class season, he was virtually an unknown even in Pakistan domestic circles. Hailing from Mardan — a city that has given Pakistan one of its best Test batsmen in the form of Younis Khan — Fakhar grew up in a middle-class family that has many common connections with Indians. His father Faqir Gul, despite his son’s interest, only discouraged him from playing as he often used to return home late after playing gully cricket with friends and dirt all over his white kit. Playing cricket every other day meant Fakhar never concentrated in studies. His father used to write poems and repeat it to him so that he can keep away from thinking about cricket. But that never happened.

With his family not supporting him to pursue a career in cricket, Fakhar chose to join the Pakistan Navy as a sailor in 2007, aged only 18. Having learnt lessons in tackling the rough sea, Fakhar spent his spare time in the Navy playing cricket in inter-zonal tournaments. And in one of those evenings in Karachi, Azam Khan, a reputed coach in the Navy, advised Fakhar to take up the role of a physical instructor, which he duly obliged.

Little did he know then that his life would take a huge U-turn to take him back to pursuing the sport he loved the most. Soon, he would bump into Younis Khan at a camp, and the former Pakistan captain would advise him to play regional cricket for his native province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy — Pakistan’s premier domestic first-class tournament. After quitting the Navy in 2013, he represented Balochistan and Abbottabad Falcons, where he was hardly noticed before the breakthrough season, early this year.

Since then, he has hardly looked back. In the second edition of the Pakistan Super League, Brendon McCullum was so impressed by the left-hander’s clean hitting that he gave the assurance that he would play the entire tournament if he hits it as cleanly. And what started in the deserts of UAE has carried on in the UK.

Fakhar began very hesitantly, with his feet hardly moving. The first ball he faced, he allowed Jasprit Bumrah’s full-toss to hit him flush on the pads with his pads coming down late. Even a tailender would have flicked it for a boundary.

But that is what makes these obscure talents special. When you least expect, they throw a surprise. He was fidgety for most of his early part of the innings, throwing his bat around and going for horizontal shots, but somehow managing to hang in. He even edged Bumrah, only to be called no-ball, and like how his life took a U-turn, everything he touched turned to gold at the Oval.

Despite his approach to pacers, he was using his feet with spinners, smothering the turn of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Known as fauji (armyman) among his teammates, he ensured that he is indeed the fakhar (pride) of Pakistan.

Factfile
Age: 27 years | Left-hand bat
First-class debut: 2013
Scores in CT 2017: 31, 50, 57, 114
Was second highest run-scorer in the 2016 Pakistan Cup (one-day tournament) and did well in the 2017 PSL too.



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