At lunch of the final day’s play between Fata and Karachi Whites, Yasir Hameed and his Fata teammates were nothing short of ecstatic after sealing their win against the home team — Karachi Whites — and avoiding relegation. Fata’s dressing room witnessed loud celebration.
Following a couple of selfie sessions with his team and grabbing a quick lunch, the Test cricketer sat down with Eos to discuss the highs and lows of his career. It has been an enigmatic career to say the least. Yasir made a dream Test debut at the National Stadium Karachi against Bangladesh in 2003 in which he scored a hundred in both innings. He electrified viewers with his picture-perfect shots. But he could never quite maintain the promise he showed in his debut. The selectors persisted with him for 25 Tests and 56 ODIs, but after a string of below par performances, he was dropped from the national squad in 2010, and has been out of the team since then.
There is a perception that Yasir got dropped from the team due to ‘non-cricketing’ factors. “Actually, such rumors emerge when you are expected to make big scores but are unable to do so,” he says. “I was making 30 and 35 runs and I wasn’t able to convert them into big scores. At the time, I just couldn’t come out of my bad form. To be honest, I won’t blame anyone, unlike others who hold the Pakistan Cricket Board responsible for their ouster from the team.”
Yasir Hameed is an enigma. With a blazing debut in Test cricket in 2003, he soon faded out after a string of under par performances. Now as the Fata team’s star performer in the recently concluded Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, he is once again eyeing a return to the national team
He adds, “Yes, I got frustrated because despite having ‘decent’ talent I wasn’t able to perform over the long haul.”
But you can sense he’d rather talk about happier times.
He reminisces about the moment which spurred him on to becoming a cricketer. “I was in my early teens when Pakistan lifted the 1992 World Cup trophy. That victory became my inspiration and Imran Khan became my role model,” he says. “Watching our stars in action then I was motivated to become a cricketer and represent Pakistan.”
About his batting inspirations he says, “When I was growing up I closely followed batsmen of the likes of Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Ejaz Ahmed and Amir Sohail.” But asked to pick his all-time favourite Pakistani batsman he says it’s difficult to choose one. “I’ll name four: Saeed Anwar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, and Younis Khan.”
What about his own career?
“I have played some good knocks in my international career,” he says with a smile. “I made 91 against India in a Multan Test and 98 at Peshawar in a limited overs game against the same opposition, 127 not out in an ODI against New Zealand in Rawalpindi but the hundred in my debut innings was the best in all this,” he says.
“I have a special association with the National Stadium,” he says recalling his debut. “The venue was also our home ground when I was playing for PIA,” he says. “Earlier in my career I played a lot of cricket here and made tons of runs. I consider it as one of the best stadiums of Pakistan and it is ideally located in the centre of the city.”
When asked about his performance in the recent Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and his thoughts about the pitches and the ball being used in this season, he says, “This first class season is good, I made 428 runs in six matches including a knock of 157. Out of all the seasons I’ve played, this Duke ball is perhaps the best cricket ball because it doesn’t lose its shape and the shine stays for a longer period of time.”
Unlike the Kookaburra ball, the local ones used in the past used to lose shape after 15 or 20 overs. “Only a skillful bowler can make the ‘Duke’ ball talk, even on a green top. Though, I am a batsman even then I really like this ball,” he says. “Almost all the pitches are newly laid and they take time to get firm. The base hasn’t settled yet so they will take a season or two to settle. Our batsmen had to face a few problems especially at the LCCA ground [in Lahore] where the bounce was uneven, but we managed somehow,” he shares.
Yasir made fifties in both innings of the Sydney Test during Pakistan’s tour to Australia in 2004-5. “The Australian bowling line-up was top notch and best in the world which included McGrath, Gillespie, Warne and McGill. We won the toss and elected to bat first. It was a bold decision considering there was a little moisture in the pitch. Both fifties are memorable, although we lost the match but it remains a special Test match for me,” he says.
When asked about his most memorable tour with the Pakistan, he says that it was Pakistan’s visit to India in 2005. “We won the third and final Test in Bengaluru to draw the series 1-1. I was quite close to Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi and enjoyed a good friendship with Shoaib Malik at the time. Our leader ‘Inzi Bhai’ had an influence on most of us. His off the field ‘lifestyle’ had a good impact on us, as individuals and as a team,” he says.
This opening allows me to bring the question back to his ouster from the team. Is it true that some players in the team gave him a hard time? “No, not at all, my fellow players and I had great fun together. Look, when a person is out of form even positives become negatives and when you do well and win matches for the team no one discusses such things.”
Yasir is still hopeful for a comeback in the Pakistan team. “I’m happy with my performance this season. If I get the call, I believe I can deliver even in a better manner. I won’t miss the opportunity this time round,” he says.
But Yasir is also looking ahead, to beyond his playing years. “I have keen interest in cricket analysis, coaching and management. Basically, I fancy anything related to cricket.”
The writer tweets @CaughtAtPoint
Published in Dawn, EOS, December 10th, 2017