When Fakhar Zaman arrives at the crease in the UAE to open his account, it will be hard not to expect something special out of Pakistan’s only double-centurion in ODI cricket.
He might have crushed Zimbabwe under the weight of his willow, but he’d be careful to understand that this will be a different series and that a new challenge will await his capable shoulders.
Fakhar Zaman, therefore, would remember each step of his arduous cricketing journey that took him away from the line of defence into a spectre where bowlers are fighting hard to breach past his defences.
Born in a small village Katlang near Mardan, Fakhar Zaman always dreamt of playing cricket like his idol Adam Gilchrist, however, at 17, he was thrust with the responsibility of being the breadwinner of his family by joining the Pakistan Navy as a sailor.
In spite of being into a prestigious job Fakar heart was not there “I didn’t want to do what I was doing,” he narrates. His life changed however at Karachi, at PNS he met Nazim Khan coach of the Pakistan Naval Cricket academy who identified his talent he sent him to Azam Khan, renowned for grooming and promoting youngsters. On his request Fakhar re joined navy again in 2008 but as a professional sportsperson. While Fakhar’s family was concerned about his decision, it was Nazim again who convinced them about it. His contract contained a special clause that he would be rehired as a sailor.
Knowing that he has a golden chance to prove his worth as a cricketer and he put his everything behind it. He spent a countless number of hours practising the pull shot against a bowling machine, delivering balls at the speed of 95 miles per hour.
One’s glad that in those tough days of his struggle Fakhar didn’t doubt himself thinking, why was he doing all of this or what if despite the strain he’d willingly endured, he wouldn’t end up playing for Pakistan?
In that period of cricketing uncertainty, surely, it can be said his mentor Azam Khan helped him and motivated him.
“There have been a number of times when I thought of quitting cricket. One of them came when I was playing a senior district tournament and could only score 25 runs in the first three games,” he recalls. “Azam Bhai told me, ‘whether you score a duck or a century, I won’t drop you.’
I scored three consecutive knocks of 150 in the next three outings and topped the Karachi district for runs scored.
It was the last time I thought of leaving cricket.”
Since it was tough to play from Karachi, Fakhar was wise to know that Mardan would’ve been a perfect hunting ground.
But Azam, upon learning of the leftie’s move was angry and advised him to return to Karachi.
He would cite, ‘If you play from Karachi and perform, you will easily get noticed. The media here also supports these players’’.
And Fakhar duly returned in 2011.
In 2013, he left Navy and signed for domestic giant Habib Bank Limited.
He would slowly keep getting better; never thinking of what would lie ahead and would, instead, choose to focus on the present.
One wonders if that helped the batsman be who he is today.
Later, an impressive performance in Pakistan cup drew the attention of everyone but his call was still away, though Fakhar was confident that his time will come and it did come, as he was selected for West Indies tour in 2017. He, however, came into limelight by a brilliant hundred against arch-rivals India in Champions Trophy Final.
A lot of what Fakhar is today and a lot of what he is going to do at the UAE will always stem from what he did back then at the Champion’s Trophy final.
His 114 was substantial in helping Pakistan win an important final and thereby scripting history. Later on, he’d become a darling of the national media courtesy his epic hammering of a Zimbabwe that were caught napping.
Either way, should there be anyone planning to bowl short at him or give him space in the UAE; thinking he’s a mouse that will get trapped on its own would be well-advised to see some numbers. These are Diwali’s firecrackers. The more you remain glued to them, the greater the risk of them exploding on your face.
Fakhar averages over 76 from 18 ODIs.
Despite these being his early days, there’s a lot to come from his wise cricketing presence. While one doesn’t quite know how he can handle spin on a neutral ground in a five-dayer, these relevant uncertainties are blanketed by his abilities.
After all, he ought to be doing something right consistently over a period of time- small that it may be- to become the fastest to reach 1000 runs in the history of ODIs.
The simple and sorted man that he is, Fakhar Zaman would know the importance of being earnest.
He’d know he has a lot to do, just the way he did back then when he was uncertain of even breaking into the sport. Today, as he has, and has even achieved a nice breakthrough, he’d know his task has only just begun if he’s to prove himself that he’s here to stay.