Rising U19 star Naseem Shah: When talent meets resilience

“My objective is to play for Pakistan and serve my country in all three formats of the game Naseem, Sarfaraz’s pep talk was a catalyst for me,” says Naseem.

Lahore, July 30, 2019: Naseem Shah was thinking of ways of celebrating wickets in the HBL Pakistan Super League 2019, but a back injury, sustained while bowling in a U19 camp at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore, ruled him out of the prestigious league.

A CT scan revealed that the 16-year-old had a fracture, only mention of which is enough to raise alarm bells for any fast-bowler. But, a chat with Sarfaraz Ahmed – the captain of Quetta Gladiators, a franchise for which Naseem had to turn out – did wonder for his morale, necessary to overcome the rigors of rehab.

Naseem’s was a phenomenal comeback to the Pakistan U19 side. His lethal pace and sharp bounce made the batsmen duck and sway, providing him 12 wickets in five one-dayers against South Africa U19 in the process when did the tour take place, give details.

“Suffering the injury and getting to know that I was going to sit out the HBL PSL was one of the saddest days of my life,” recalls Naseem. “I want to thank the Quetta Gladiators management, who despite my injury carried me along with them for the HBL PSL.

Sarfaraz’s pep talk acted as a catalyst for me. He explained to me that injuries are part and parcel of a cricketer’s life. The atmosphere in the Quetta Gladiators dugout was absolutely fantastic, where the greats of the game like Sir Viv Richards, Dwayne Bravo, and Moin Khan bhai were present to pass on the knowledge and share their experiences with the youngsters.”

The example of Usman Shinwari, who suffered a stress fracture in his back immediately after announcing his arrival in the series against Sri Lanka in the UAE in late 2017, provided Naseem with further motivation. “It encouraged me to make a comeback,” says Naseem remembering the conversation he had with Shinwari in which the latter spoke about out how rehabilitation not only allowed him back into the national side’s fold but helped in improving pace and fitness.

Naseem was full of praise for the NCA staff. “I am extremely thankful to the management and coaches at the NCA and the PCB for taking great care of me. Mudassar Nazar, director academies, gave me examples of other fast-bowlers who went through the same patch. It let me know, there is light on the other side of the tunnel.”

Naseem had to battle at many fronts to be where he is today. One of those was to convince his family to allow him to take cricket as a profession. It meant that he had to leave his family. “Initially, my family was not comfortable with the idea of me coming to Lahore. But, my uncle convinced my parents to let me come here to fulfill my dream of donning Pakistan’s golden star on my chest.

Naseem made his first-class debut for Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited against Lahore Region Blues. In his second match against Pakistan Television in September 2018, he grabbed seven wickets which helped his side to a nine-wicket win.

Speaking about that contest in Rawalpindi, Naseem said: “There was a lot of pressure on me. But thank Almighty, I was able to deliver and win it for my team.”

The experts have earmarked him as someone with bright prospects at the highest level. He idolizes former New Zealand fast bowler Shane Bond and emulates his bowling action.

“Shane Bond is my ideal bowler. People say that I have a similar bowling action like him, which I take as a compliment. My objective is to play for Pakistan and serve my country in all three formats of the game.”

For now, Naseem has set his focus on surmounting the forthcoming challenges.

“My main focus right now is on the upcoming Asia Cup this year and the next year’s ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup to perform well for my country.”

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