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It's been a long, hard grind: Umar Amin

Updated May 04, 2013
“I had actually gone to sleep by the time the Champions Trophy squad was announced late on Monday night. My parents woke me up to break the news.” -Photo by AP
“I had actually gone to sleep by the time the Champions Trophy squad was announced late on Monday night. My parents woke me up to break the news.” -Photo by AP

KARACHI: After a topsy-turvy start to his international career in 2010, recalled batsman Umar Amin pledged on Friday that he would be determined to assert himself during Pakistan’s upcoming limited-overs tour of Britain later this month.

The 23-year-old left-hander from Rawalpindi, who also bowls useful right-arm gentle medium-pacers, admitted in an exclusive interview with Dawn that he was deeply disappointed with his early days performance while representing Pakistan when he accumulated just 34 runs in three Asia Cup matches in the Sri Lankan town of Dambulla.

Soon afterwards, he got another big chance to show his mettle when he played four consecutive Test matches – two apiece against Australia and England – on that ill-fated trip to England in 2010 but managed to score just 99 runs.

“Yeah, it was quite a huge fall from the grace as far as my first real taste of international cricket is concerned. Then, as a 20-year-old newcomer I wasn’t nervous as such but the paltry returns in those first few games left me wondering whether I was good enough to be playing at top level,” Umar said while speaking from Abbottabad where the Pakistan squad’s training-cum-conditioning camp got underway.

“The moment I got sidelined [from the senior squad] after that tour I promised myself to become a better cricketer and started a long, hard grind to achieve the desired goals. On the way I encountered difficult moments but I wasn’t prepared to give in. That’s why I got picked in the [Pakistan] Twenty20 squad for the series in India and South Africa in recent months,” he added.

Umar, who aims to acquire further academic qualifications after having already done his ‘A’ Level some three years, revealed that getting back among the household names of Pakistan cricket was like a new lease of life.

“And although I didn’t quite manage to play [the first Twenty20 International of his career], it was a new learning curve in my life because I had learnt my lessons the hard way in the preceding couple of years. My form in the domestic season must have impressed the selectors to merit inclusion in the Pakistan squad.”

Umar, a successful professional with Morecambe CC in the North Premier League in Lancashire last English summer, had the distinction of piling up most first-class runs in 2012-13 domestic season with a tally of 1321 in 15 matches for Port Qasim Authority (PQA) and Rawalpindi with ex-Pakistan captain Rashid Latif and former first-class cricketer Sabih Azhar being the driving force behind this success.

Even then the soft-spoken Umar admitted he was least expecting to be included in the 15-man national squad for the Champions Trophy despite making the list of probables.

“I had actually gone to sleep by the time the Champions Trophy squad was announced late on Monday night. My parents woke me up to break the news. I just couldn’t believe what they were saying since I was still in a state of slumber. But when they joyously embraced me, I realized that it wasn’t a dream,” Umar recalled.

“At that moment I offered prayers of gratitude because without Allah’s will, how could I ever think of being included in the squad. It took quite a while to get back to sleep with ‘over-the-moon’ feeling flooding my mind!”

Umar attributes the transformation in his cricket career to Rashid and Sabih. “My game has changed both technically and tactically under their guidance. Rashid has been tremendous and worked tirelessly since I joined PQA before start of the last season. Through video visuals, my batting has improved by leaps and bounds because Rashid dedicatedly made me watch those clippings and it really helped me to improve.

“Sabih, as always, has been great to me. As my mentor from an early age, Sabih has always supported me to the hilt and whatever I have achieved is all due to Sabih’s sincerity.”

Umar, who made his first-class debut for Rawalpindi against PIA with scores of 89 and 56 in November 2007, also played for Pakistan Under-19 the same year and scored 113 in the first ‘Test’ against England at Scarborough. Among his team-mates in the side skippered by all-rounder Imad Wasim were future Pakistan stars Mohammad Aamir, Ahmed Shehzad and Junaid Khan.

Umar’s parting words were that he was greatly inspired by the deeds of the 1992 World Cup-winning Pakistan captain Imran Khan.

“If ever I had to pick the person to make the biggest impact on my life, I won’t go beyond Imran Khan who is the greatest inspiration for me.

The steely determination on his face [from the videos of his playing days] always indicated that he was a man on a mission with a never-say-die attitude. You can’t a find a better role model than him.”