Faisal Akram: 17-year-old chinaman who bamboozled Babar Azam

The Multan-born spinner has carried his rich vein of form into U-19 cricket

Faisal Akram: 17-year-old chinaman who bamboozled Babar Azam PHOTO COURTESY: PCB

Left-arm wrist-spinner, Faisal Akram, was unknown to many when Pakistan team management decided to invite him to their training camp ahead of the South African tour.

The rookie spinner has been bamboozling the batsmen with his variations and guile since he started playing Under-16 cricket. Faisal played U-16 cricket for only one year, but ended up as the highest wicket-taker in PCB’s U-16 Pentangular tournament during 2018-19 season, which earned him a place in Pakistan’s U-16 team.

The Multan-born player has carried his rich vein of form into U-19 cricket as he picked 27 wickets in only 10 matches during 2020/21 National U-19 One Day Cup.

However, the biggest highlight of his short career so far came during a practice match last week at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore, as he dismissed his favourite batsman, Babar Azam, by trapping him lbw with his stock delivery that turned back sharply.

“He [Babar] is a world-class player, so I was under a little bit of pressure early on. But Waqar [Younis] bhai, who was standing beside me as an umpire, gave me confidence and said that I can do it. I was bowling well at that time as well, so Babar bhai got a good ball and was dismissed. After that my confidence just skyrocketed,” Faisal said while speaking in an exclusive interview with Cricket Pakistan.

Pakistan selectors might have called Faisal to the camp, in order to prepare their batsmen for the potential threat of Tabraiz Shamsi during the upcoming series against South Africa. The 31-year-old chinaman proved to be a thorn in Pakistan’s side as he picked up six wickets in three T20Is during Proteas’ recent visit to Pakistan.

“Waqar bhai didn’t tell me to copy him [Shamsi]. He just asked me to give my best, so that I can provide some good practice to Pakistan batsmen before South Africa tour. I also gained experience by bowling to them,” Faisal added.

After dismissing Babar, the young spinner has his eyes set on picking the prized scalp of Indian captain, Virat Kohli.

“My dream is to get the wicket of Virat Kohli and hopefully it will come true,” he said.

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Faisal was involved with the PSL franchise, Multan Sultans, this season, where he got the opportunity to learn from the likes of Mushtaq Ahmed and Shahid Afridi.

“Mushtaq bhai is my favourite coach because he is also a leg-spinner, so I have learned a lot from him. Shahid bhai also gave me tips and confidence,” he said.

It may come as a surprise, but the 17-year-old has also received a goodwill gesture from Indian all-rounder, Hardik Pandya.

“I have had conversations with him [Hardik] on Instagram. He has sponsored a bat for me from there,” he said.

Faisal also revealed his admiration for former Australian left-arm wrist-spinner, Brad Hogg.

“My favourite bowler in international cricket was Brad Hogg, who I have followed from the beginning and also try to copy,” he said.

The young rookie realizes the importance of an all-round skill set and is determined to make contributions with the bat as well.

“I work hard on my batting. I can also do some hitting, so my aim is to represent Pakistan as an all-rounder,” he said.

The wrist-spinner’s consistent performances have earned him a place in Pakistan’s U-19 squad for the Bangladesh tour in April. The 17-year-old is hoping to earn more accolades for Pakistan, with an aim to represent the country at 2022 Under-19 World Cup.

“My goal right now is to play the Under-19 World Cup for Pakistan. I am hoping to be the best bowler on this upcoming tour,” he concluded.

Note: The author tweets at  @zaidhassan89