The 15-year-old also has to meet the heavy responsibility of meeting his family's economic needs
Areas of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan, which were previously termed as Tribal Areas, lack basic facilities including opportunities for jobs and earnings. People of this area, including children, go to big cities for earning.
15-year-old Masih Ullah is one such kid, who lost his father due to a regional conflict, who sells headphones in the busy market of Pakistan’s fourth largest city of Rawalpindi. Masih earns only three to four hundred rupees daily, while working from the evening till late night.
Although, in the morning, from 8 am to 6 pm, he is usually busy in a local cricket academy to improve his cricketing skills and hopes that one day he will be part of Pakistan cricket team. He does not shy away from putting in the hard yards at the club with other children and consistently bowls at a bowling speed of around 133 kilometre per hour (kph).
The heavy responsibility of meeting the family's economic needs lies on the weak shoulders of Masih because he is the eldest of his five siblings. Recently, he also employed his younger brother Raheem Ullah with a shopkeeper where he is paid PKR 8,000 monthly.
“I have great passion for the game and for that I am working hard to fulfil the requirements,” said Masih. “It is very difficult to give time to work and cricket as I am very tired when I get back to my resting place. I eat dinner quickly and sleep early.”
Masih lives in a shared room with other children, who are also earning a living through various different means like shoe shining and selling drinks to passengers, in Rawalpindi and is very far from his family. He can only manage to come to home twice a year. His widow mother Bakhti Manan Bibi, along with her three children Haseeb Ullah, Nasr Ullah and Safia, live in a small mud house consisting of one room in Bajaur District.
Cricket has changed lives of many players, who rose from humble beginnings, and one example is Pakistan pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, who hails from Khyber Agnecy, but nowadays lives a luxury life due to income from cricket. In Pakistan, cricket is a very rewarding game leading to a lot of fame and respect.
Pakistan cricket team’s former all-rounder Abdul Razzaq is one of the players Masih looks up to for inspiration.
“Razzaq is my favourite player and I want to become a successful cricketer like him,” he said.
Chaudry Rahmat Ali Khan Cricket Club, which was established in 1970, is where Masih trains, and his coach Khurram Khan is optimistic about the kid’s future.
“Masih has got talent which can make him a brilliant cricketer after some work. He works hard and has shown good results in T20 games recently held in Lahore,” said Khurram. “His bowling and rhythm is good but his diet is poor due to weak financial conditions. If provided with care and attention, he can nurtured into a star of the future.”
Realising the importance of education, Masih has also continued his studies as a private student regardless of family responsibilities and financial constraints. He has also admitted younger brothers and sisters in schools inorder to ensure a better future for them.
Inorder to facilitate such talent and vulnerable boys, some of the government policies are against the welfare of the poor people and usually discourage them rather than encouraging. The amendments in regional cricket, after the Pakistan Cricket Board’s revamped domestic structure, especially in Under-16, in which regions have been restricted to 6 only, people like Masih will have rare chances to qualify which is why it is imperative that the authorities rethink their decision.