‘Zaman broke the bowling machine for more practice, that’s how passionate he is’

Pakistan opener’s coaches tell story of 28-year-old’s development and grooming as player

‘Zaman broke the bowling machine for more practice, that’s how passionate he is’ PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman has been making headlines for all the right reasons. From being the first double-centurion in Pakistan’s history to breaking the record for the fastest cricketer to get to 1,000 runs in ODIs, Zaman is just having the time of his life.

Since lighting up the second edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) back in 2017, the Mardan-born has not looked back and has taken huge strides forwards.

And while the 28-year-old has announced himself to the world in style, a lot happened in his early years as a cricketer which shaped him into a world beater today.

Navy coach Nizam Khan and Pakistan Cricket Club’s — Zaman’s first club — coach Azam Khan played an pivotal part in grooming and developing his talent and it was under their guidance and mentorship that Zaman learnt to perfect his batting.

“He [Zaman] was eager to learn from a very young age and while training with the Navy, his passion for cricket increased drastically,” recalled Nizam while talking about how Zaman’s passion for the game started.

“Zaman joined the Navy in 2007-08 and was in PNS Bahadur’s operational branch,” he added. “Since the very first day he was extremely fond of cricket and one day, when he and his batch mates came for swimming, I was told that there was someone who wants to meet me. It was Zaman, who had come to tell me that he loved cricket and wanted to pursue it. My question was: How are you in love with cricket when there is no cricket in Mardan? He replied: It’s my passion.”

Seeing Zaman’s love for cricket, Nizam called him for training and after being impressed with his raw talent in the nets, he requested Azam to give him an opportunity to play inter-district matches.

It was there that Zaman was selected by selector Zafar Ahmed and started impressing everyone around him. He made 55 in his first U19 district match and followed that up with an impressive 90 in the second.

He then joined Karachi Region’s team and started playing first-class matches and that was when Nizam realised that Zaman was pursuing a wrong career.

“After seeing his talent, I knew that that Navy was not for him. He was already finding it difficult to juggle cricket and the Navy academy’s commitments so I told [then] Director Sports Captain Mehtab Ahmed to get him transferred from academy training to the field of sports. After that, the rest is right in front of everyone as Zaman is not only an international cricketer, but one who can make the nation proud,” said Nizam.

While talking about Zaman’s love for the sport, Nizam narrated an incident where Zaman broke the bowling machine because he was just so eager to practice.

“While in the Navy, Zaman started practicing in the nets with some friends at 6am in the morning. And because of the dew and the wet ball, he damaged the bowling machine. I was extremely angry and asked him as to why did he have to practice so early, but he just said that I will buy you a new one when I play for the national side one day,” said Nizam.

Azam, meanwhile, highlighted how Nizam had played a pivotal role in Zaman’s development.

“Nizam brought Zaman to club practice and then the youngster started coming to me for training three days a week. Nizam also worked on his batting and constantly advised him to work on staying on the crease for a long time,” he said.

‘Just scoring a single 50 or a 100 is not what you should aim for. Even having scores of 35-40 in a lot of matches won’t benefit you. Stay long on the crease and play as much as you can.’

These were the words Nizam had said to Zaman and his batting style lays testament to the fact that Zaman has not forgotten his coaches’ words.

Azam further said that apart from Zaman’s batting prowess, it was his character and his humble personality which has made him a success.

“He always respects his seniors, prays five times a day, lives a modest life and works extremely hard to achieve his targets and that is what has made him who he is today,” said Azam.