The buzz in Pakistan’s cricketing circles is all about the Ramazan Twenty20 tournaments.
This has been my first crack at Ramazan cricket as I have been busy with the Pakistan ‘A’ team or Under-19s previously. When I’m not playing a Ramazan tournament, I start the day with a visit to the ground late afternoon and a gym session full of cardio workout, followed by a swim and then of course, batting practice. I return with just enough time to shower and eat Iftar.
The month of Ramazan is seen as a challenging time by everyone, especially athletes. For Pakistan’s cricketers, however, it is one of the most exciting times of the year. This is the time when most cricketers from all around Pakistan assemble in Karachi to earn an income that is four to five times greater than their monthly salaries, especially for those who are unable to play county cricket in England.
We are eager to participate in these tournaments not just for the money but also for the recognition we may be able to garner by doing well in these matches. This is the time when we are close to the domestic season and many teams are looking to sign new players. There is no better opportunity for giving your best performance and keeping your fingers crossed for getting noticed on television. For those cricketers who get limited first-class opportunities, this is a chance to prove that they can mix their skills and compete with the renowned names of the domestic circuit.
A typical Ramazan cricket day involves playing two matches, on either side of Iftar while fasting. We tend to take the post-Iftar matches lightly and underestimate them while they are actually the tougher ones because it is usually the time we are low on energy. We still have to give it our best shot, not least because the importance of Ramazan cricket has peaked with television coverage of these tournaments.
In Ramazan, my day starts with a meaty sehri, comprising eggs, parathas, halwa puri and a refreshing glass of lassi. I am then off to sleep until, at least noon if the match is scheduled for 2.00pm. Come Iftar time, the consumption is much lighter as compared to Sehri and I mainly try to have an intake of water, RoohAfza, Tang, lemonade or anything that is ice-cold.
Some cricketers visiting from other parts of the country spend the entire day in their hotel rooms, watching television while others head out to explore the city and kill their time. Most players are based at hotels in and around Saddar. This gives the players an opportunity to make the best of the extensive dining options available. Then, of course, is the Atrium cinema. Most of my trips to Atrium are made with my friends and teammates who are visiting the city during Ramazan.
I have always treated Ramazan as a bonus for my off-season training. This is when I manage to surpass most cricketers in terms of preparation for the upcoming season as most of us only play matches during this month. This will be the first time I will combine playing matches and having practice on non-match days. I treat this as an ideal opportunity to prove my mettle and show that I can play all three formats of the game, having just returned from a successful training camp for emerging players.
I have started off the holy month with a joint man-of-the-match performance at the Karachi Gymkhana tournament, scoring an unbeaten 47 while chasing 100.
At the Moin Khan Twenty20 tournament, my team HBL have done well but with some frontline bowlers missing, we haven’t been able to bowl well. We will hopefully have our key players back for the rest of tournament and push for a place in the semis. HBL have signed up two exciting middle-order batsman in Usman Salahuddin and Rameez Aziz and I think the induction of fresh blood will make things exciting for us, as well as the crowds.
Ramazan cricket has been a long-standing tradition in Pakistan. Even today, players like Shahid Afridi and Younis Khan make appearances in tape-ball tournaments and T20 night cricket. I know a lot of players from the national team are banking on these matches to gain some practice before the WorldT20 and the tour of Australia. I hope we can make this another exciting season of night cricket.
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