Rohail Nazir: From failing first trial to leading Pakistan U19

In the PCB-Pepsi U16 two-day tournament in 2016, Rohail made 394 runs in four matches

Rohail Nazir: From failing first trial to leading Pakistan U19 PHOTO: PCB

Batting and wicketkeeping prodigy Rohail Nazir will be leading Pakistan in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Under19 (U19) Cricket World Cup 2020. But, four years ago, the Islamabad-born was not sure whether he had what it took to thrive in competitive cricket.

Like numerous cricket stars in the country, his ‘love affair’ with the game had begun by playing tape-ball cricket in his neighbourhood.

He took inspiration from his elder brother, Tahir Nazir, who is one of the prominent tape-ball players and growing up Rohail wanted to emulate his brother’s heroics with the bat.

He shifted his focus to wicketkeeping on the advice of his coach while starting off his career. But, the start was not a rosy one. In 2015, Rohail was left disheartened after failing his first-ever PCB-Pepsi U16 trials.

Next year, he returned again, and left with a thumping impression.

In the PCB-Pepsi U16 two-day tournament in 2016, Rohail made 394 runs in four matches which earned him a spot in the U16 series against Australia in the UAE in 2017.

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He grabbed the opportunity with both hands; hitting two centuries in three innings in the one-day series on his way to 258 series runs. In three T20 matches, he accumulated 99 runs with the help of one half-century.

He carried his good form over to the National U19 Inter-Regional One-Day Tournament 2017. In eight matches, he scored 406 runs at 67.67. In the three-day version, Rohail scored 508 runs in five matches with the help of one century and four half-centuries, averaging 63.50.

In 2018, Rohail Nazir made his debut in first-class cricket. And, last year in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2019-20, he scored 320 runs in the six matches he played, including two fifties in the final. In his team Northern’s first innings, Rohail scored a fighting 80 (115 balls, 12 fours) to rescue his side with a 155-run partnership with Faizan Riaz after they had collapsed to 69 for five. Rohail followed his first innings heroics with a 96-ball 70 with the help of nine fours. 

Rohail’s admires Ahmed Shehzad and wants to pick his brains on the art of batsmanship. His favourite cricketer is AB de Villiers and has been mentored by Imad Wasim, with whom he used to practice in Islamabad.

He enjoys playing the ball off the backfoot and the shot which he enjoys the most is the backfoot punch.

Rohail Nazir on his early days, interest and ambition in cricket: “I aspired of becoming a cricketing star in my childhood and my family supported me from the beginning which made things easy for me.

“I had failed in the 2015 PCB-Pepsi U16 trials which broke my heart. At that time I felt my strength is tape-ball cricket and maybe I would need to stick to that as hard-ball cricket was not meant for me. But on the insistence of my brothers and friends, I gave trials the next year and succeeded.

“My performances against Australia U16 gave me tremendous confidence. Pakistan all-rounder Imad Wasim, who also hails from Islamabad, has been a great support to me. We used to practice at the Diamond Cricket Club in Islamabad and Imad used to encourage me a lot and used to praise me on my performances at various levels.”

Rohail is already a sought-after property in the HBL Pakistan Super League. After having spent a season with Islamabad United, Rohail has been picked-up by Multan Sultans for the 2020 edition of the prestigious T20 league.

The wicketkeeper-batsman has already represented Pakistan in ACC Youth U19 Asia Cup 2017, 2018 and 2019 besides playing the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2018 in New Zealand.

Arguably, the biggest moment of Rohail’s short career to date came in the recent ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup final in Bangladesh when his century against the hosts helped Pakistan annex the title.

Rohail has also held his own in senior cricket, besides scoring a century for Islamabad Region against HBL on his first-class debut (130 off 194 balls, 15 fours, one six), Rohail has had impressive returns in Patron’s Trophy Grade II, National T20 Cup and Quaid-e-Azam One-Day Cup.

Having featured in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2018 besides his numerous appearances for Pakistan’s representative and age-group sides, Rohail will enter the 2020 edition of the U19 World Cup as one of the most experienced and established players at this level.