KARACHI: Only a few batsmen can afford to be drawn discernible comparisons with the legendary Pakistan batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq.
But the tall figure of Sohaib Maqsood, one of the rising stars on the domestic batting front who is still uncapped at the international level and who is part of the Pakistan Twenty20 side for the Zimbabwe tour, refuses to put himself in that bracket.
In an exclusive interview with Dawn, the humble Sohaib said on Sunday that it is a premature assumption on part of cricket experts to rate him alongside former Pakistan captain Inzamam, regarded as probably the finest batsman produced by the country in the modern era who retired after a 16-year career in October 2007.
“It would be absolutely unjustified [on part of the game’s connoisseurs] to pass on such comments. Inzamam was arguably one of the true legends of the game and his track record [8,830 Test runs and 11,739 in ODIs] speaks volumes of his qualities as a match-winner on many, many occasions,” the top-order batsman, who is due to leave with the Zimbabwe-bound national squad in the early hours of Monday, said.
“I’m still awaiting my chance to play international cricket. And once I do get the opportunities, we all don’t know yet how would I perform! Of course, I’m elated to be picked in the Pakistan squad and the road ahead is extremely long; the journey [to success] can be hazardous sometimes, so let’s wait and see how it all goes [on the Zimbabwe trip]. Definitely it would be new challenge playing for Pakistan.”
Like Inzamam, Sohaib was born in Multan — the southern Punjab city which is famous for its saints and shrines — and is a tall right-handed batsman (Sohaib is 6” 2) like his famous predecessor was.
In a playing career that was twice interrupted by serious injuries to his back and ankle, Sohaib, who was born on April 15, 1987, was lost to the game for three years in total.
“Yeah, those were depressing times when I got injured. The first occurred when I badly hurt my back and was sidelined for 18 months after playing two Under-19 ‘Tests’ against Sri Lanka the year before [in March 2005]. I missed selection for the U-19 World Cup because of the injury, Shoaib recalls.
“At the start I saw myself more as a bowler [made first-class debut for Multan against Lahore at the Gaddafi Stadium in the Quaid-i-Azam Trophy in Feb 2004, scored 0 and 12 batting at No 11 and bowled 16 wicketless overs] and used to bowl off-spinners. In those days, my idols were [Muttiah] Muralitharan, Saqlain Mushtaq, Harbhajan Singh etc and I watched them a lot before turning my attention to [current hero] Jacques Kallis!
“The second injury came after a good season in 2010-11 [scored 951 runs in 12 first-class matches] when I broke my left ankle and was out of the game for another lengthy period. Good and bad things are somehow related in life. After the bad phase, the good came when last season [2012-13] I made runs aplenty in all formats and the selectors took noticed of me.”
Hailing from a well-educated family with both his parents belonging to the teaching profession, Sohaib remembers how tough it was for him to play sports.“Since my parents wanted me to pursue studies, I didn’t develop interest in cricket until I was about 14! During the course of academic life, I sought to do Masters in Sports Science but failed to complete the degree because of cricket. But later I managed to find time to get an MBA degree,” Sohaib, who has been representing Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) in domestic tournaments since 2009 as well as playing for his region Multan, revealed.
“The environment at home seldom allowed me to express myself on the sports fields. But because of cricket the people who I have never met have started to know who I am! I want to keep my feet on the ground and not get distracted by fame and wealth because I’m a God-fearing individual. What I have achieved in life thus far is all due to the Almighty and the blessings of my parents and elders.”
Sohaib, who has amassed over 2,000 runs in PCB competitions in the past nine months including 944 in two one-day events bagging the ‘best batsman award’ on both occasions, remains optimistic about his future.
“I’m grateful to everyone who has played part in my career, particularly the entire Wapda management which has always stood behind me and provided full support. The staff at the National Cricket Academy who made sure I regain complete fitness after those [career-threatening] injuries,” Sohaib remarked.
Sohaib stressed that he is no Inzamam and has his own style. “Obviously it’s a coincidence that people see a lot of Inzy Bhai [Inzamam] in me. But honestly, I never watched him that closely or attempted to copy his way of batting. I’ve my own style. Maybe I go hard at the ball like him and play big shots.
“The only time I really watched Inzamam closely was when he scored a century against Bangladesh [Inzamam hit an unbeaten 138 in a memorable one-wicket victory in September 2003] during the Test in Multan. Then I was one of the ball-pickers placed on the boundary by the local association and Inzamam hit 20 fours and one six in that innings!” Sohaib remembers.