KARACHI: When Pakistan play Afghanistan in Sharjah on Sunday in a prelude to next week’s two Twenty20 Internationals against Sri Lanka in Dubai, many would be interested in following the performance of a newcomer in the green attire.
Sharjeel Khan, a 24-year-old left-handed opening batsman, is set to become only the second Hyderabad-born cricketer to play in a full international for Pakistan after Rizwan Ahmed, the batting all-rounder who featured in a One-day International at Sheikhupura when Zimbabwe toured Pakistan in early 2008.
The Hyderabad-born Azeem Ghumman, also an opener and son of late film star Shahnawaz Ghumman, captained Pakistan at the ICC Under-19 World Cup hosted by New Zealand in January 2010. Now 22, Azeem could possibly stake his claims for inclusion in the senior national side in the future.
Son of former first-class player Sohail Mahmood, Sharjeel was named in the 14-man Pakistan squad for the upcoming three matches in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after a string of consistent run spree in the domestic tournaments this season for Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) who on Tuesday clinched the Faysal Bank T20 Cup for Departments with a 78-run rout of the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) in the final in Lahore.
Sharjeel, if he’s picked in the XI, won’t feel playing in a strange environment since he has been a regular visitor to the UAE during the past four years, competing in a number of limited-overs leagues for several local outfits in the Emirates.
“Obviously, the experience of playing there would be beneficial for me because I had been going there regularly for four years while there is no cricket in Pakistan,” Sharjeel said while talking to Dawn in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
“Probably there could be the customary butterflies churning in the stomach when I do get selected to represent Pakistan for the first time. But I guess, like anyone else, that’s a natural phenomenon! But seriously speaking, I don’t get that nervous or have that kind of a feeling.”
When asked to express his reaction when he got picked in the squad last Sunday, Sharjeel, who is due to leave for Dubai with the national squad in the early hours of Thursday, said at that point in time he was overjoyed upon hearing the news.
“Of course, the feeling [of being selected in the squad] was simply great. Immediately I thanked the Almighty Allah for His kindness and giving me a chance to represent Pakistan. I rang up my family and they were very happy for me. It [the news] was unbelievable for them,” Sharjeel said.
“But I, for one, always remained optimistic that if you perform exceptionally well then there are opportunities knocking at the doors for you to prove that you are worth it.”
The induction of Sharjeel could possibly solve the perennial problem that Pakistan have been facing for the last few years.
“To me that would be a huge challenge because I want to prove that scoring runs matter a lot and I want to do it in all forms of cricket,” Sharjeel, who intends to do MBA after having graduated with commerce degree, pledged.
“To play for Pakistan is the greatest honour and I want to serve my country for a long time and do it proud in a dignified manner.”
He revealed that his biggest wish was to meet ex-national skipper Saeed Anwar because the former Pakistan opener is his role model and a childhood hero.
“When I was young, my father taught me the basics of cricket and played a massive part in my development as a cricketer. Like any child I had a hero whom I wanted to follow and emulate. Saeed bhai was one of the finest players of his era. I loved the way he used to bat and like him I also love hitting boundaries,” Sharjeel expressed.
“If you ask me the person I wish to meet most in my life it has to be Saeed Anwar. His records speak for themselves. I wish I could bat like him!”
Saeed, who scored 4052 Test runs and 8824 in ODIs between 1989 and 2003, formed a formidable opening partnership with fellow left-hander and another former Pakistan captain, Aamir Sohail.