CRICKET: A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK

Published December 27, 2020
With his legendary grandfather Hanif Mohammad and father Shoaib Mohammad
With his legendary grandfather Hanif Mohammad and father Shoaib Mohammad

On October 12, 2018, in the land of saints, Multan, the grandson of legendary Hanif Mohammad and son of Test cricketer Shoaib Mohammad — Shehzar Mohammad — made history when he scored 265, his maiden first-class double century.

With his crossing 200, the Mohammad family became the second family to have three generations achieve the feat after the English D’Oliveiras.

“Yes, that double century is the highlight of my first-class cricket career,” says Shahzar.

“When I reached the 50 runs mark I knew it was a good day for me and thought let’s see how long I can bat here. The wicket in Multan Stadium was pretty good, but it wasn’t easy nonetheless. I had to fight it out in the middle, but even when I reached 100 I wasn’t tired because of my good fitness level.

“I knew I had seen a lot of failures in my life so, on that day, I had to cash in on as much as I could. I was focused, even after reaching three figures. I was playing session by session and batted for almost two days. It was a great feeling, my hard work paid off.”

Shehzar was very young when he realised that he hailed from the legendary cricketing Mohammad family of Pakistan. “I must have been six. There was a benefit match in Sharjah and I was playing with my bat on the sidelines. Suddenly, Sunil Gavaskar noticed me and he stopped and started to bowl to me. Then he was greeted by my grandfather and father.

“I was very close to my grandfather and I used to go out with him almost everywhere. I remember going to fast food joints as a kid to find the people there recognising him. I realised that I belong to a very respected and famous family and that I must carry on the tradition,” he says.

The grandson of legendary Hanif Mohammad and the son of Shoaib Mohammad is making a name for himself in domestic cricket and as a fitness trainer. But he has set his sights higher

Shehzar considers his grandfather as his first coach. “I would wait for Dada to wake up. I knew that he would wake up at a certain time, he would have his breakfast and his paan and then watch cricket on TV with me. Later, he would play cricket in the garden with me. That’s how I started my cricket. I also used to go to the Defence Stadium [now Southend Club] with Dada and play cricket with him there. I was enthusiastic about the sport and wanted to excel in it. At the age of seven, I decided that I will become a cricketer,” he says.

But like many other cricketers hailing from cricketing families, Shehzar had a difficult career path. “People will assume that we are born with a silver spoon. Yes, we may come from a family that has made a name for itself in cricket but, at the same time, it makes it more difficult for us to excel, because we have to perform much harder due to the comparisons in front of us.

“People don’t see the hardship and struggles that we have to go through. They think that we got an easy route to the top. That said it’s a blessed feeling and I would not have it any other way,” Shehzar says.

Shehzar was very young when he left Pakistan. “My parents separated when I was 10 years old so I moved to America. I spent my teenage years in Houston and finished high school there. Also, I played club cricket on weekends there. Then I decided to come back to Pakistan when I was 18 and played under-19 cricket here, before getting the opportunity to play first-class cricket.”

In the current season of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Shehzar is representing Sindh 2nd XI, but it hasn’t hampered his motivation. “The real goal is to show my talent in a consistent way. I know I have performed and I have the ability to play Test cricket for Pakistan but the only way I could achieve that goal is to show everyone that I can give top performances consistently. It is my goal.”

In the recently concluded National T20 Cup (the domestic T20 tournament) Shehzar made his debut as a cricket commentator, too; but he had to face some flak on social media for his accent.

Shehzar Mohammad training in his well-equipped gym in Karachi
Shehzar Mohammad training in his well-equipped gym in Karachi

“The experience was great, to commentate on the game you love and which you’ve seen growing up. It was a random opportunity. When they offered it to me, I consulted my elders and they told me to try it out as a stint. I would keep that on hold till after my cricket career. It was a new experience, though because of social media and my fitness show on television, I was used to facing the camera.

“Yes, I’ve heard about the ‘fake accent’ comments. It was good in a way that people noticed, but some of them don’t know about me or my life so I’ll just ignore it all. I don’t take such things seriously. I know who I am and that’s more important. If you’re doing well in life, people will either hate you or love you, and if you’re focused and doing your hard work, it doesn’t really matter what people say,” he says.

Shehzar is a fitness aficionado and runs a well-equipped gym in Karachi. “As a cricketer, mental training and fitness came naturally to me. It was always a passion of mine. Six years ago, I got more involved in fitness because I wanted to improve as a cricketer. I did my certificate courses in Sports Biomechanics and CrossFit from the US. When I set up my first gym in Pakistan, there was very little awareness about personal fitness compared to the US, but now things are changing and I am delighted to see that happening.

“If you have fit people you will have a fit Pakistan. I wanted to motivate people to have an improved and better life. Fitness training has helped my mind to focus and to live a healthy lifestyle. I want others to follow suit. It makes me happy giving back as much as I can,” he adds.

He has worked with numerous cricketers and showbiz personalities to help improve their fitness. “In the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many cricketers of the likes of Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Sarfraz Ahmad, Asad Shafiq and Sohaib Maqsood. Azam Khan has been working with me and he has lost 32 kg in one year.

“It is a development project which will continue for another one-and-a-half years before he is completely fit. I’ve also trained actors such as Bilal Ashraf and Mohib Mirza to name a few. Interestingly, there is a different way of training for cricketers. Their attitude in the gym is so supreme because they work towards a goal. Cricket in the future will be all about fitness. T20 is an intense game. If you are fit, you can perform consistently,” he says.

About his goals and future endeavors, Shehzar shares: “The goal has always been to play Test cricket for Pakistan, that’s the reason I came back from America. At the same time, I got the opportunity to work as a fitness trainer here. I know whatever is in my control, I’m going to work hard towards that and try to make my 24 hours as productive as I can.

“When you work hard, everything falls into place. I know I was born in a family of cricketers who represented Pakistan, piled tons and tons of stats, and became legendary in the game. Representing such an illustrious family is the biggest honour for me. At the same time, I want to leave my mark in something that wasn’t given to me but which I created for myself.”

Shehzar remains firmly connected to his roots. “People go to America to live the American dream, but I came back to live the Pakistan dream.”

The writer tweets @CaughtAtPoint

Published in Dawn, EOS, December 27th, 2020

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