Lahore : Fakhar Zaman has made great strides in greens. His dashing batting has enthralled the Pakistan fans to an extent that they expect him to score in every match he plays.
The man from Mardan became the first Pakistan batsman to score a double century in an ODI. That came in the series against Zimbabwe last July, where he also achieved the record of scoring 515 runs in five games.
A left-handed opener with a good back lift and a daring approach at the crease, Fakhar’s strongest asset is his timing and that he is not afraid of the ball coming at any speed.
Recruited as a sailor in Pakistan Navy on his father’s wishes, Fakhar always wanted to be a cricketer. He found his way even in the Navy and sailed through to the domestic cricket with flying colours.
It was in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2016-17 that he made his presence felt, scoring 663 runs in the competition at an average of 51, including 170 in the second innings of the final, which his team Habib Bank won.
But it was the Pakistan Super League where Fakhar’s attacking batting was noticed.
Pakistan’s head coach Mickey Arthur liked his daring qualities. While Sharjeel Khan lost his way in PSL 2, it made way for Fakhar who has not looked back since. After the second edition of the PSL, where he made 177 runs in eight games, including the half century that caught the selectors and Mickey’s prying eyes, looking for an opener for limited overs matches.
A Jasprit Bumrah no-ball helped him smash a match-turning hundred at The Oval on June 18 in the ICC Champions Trophy final and Pakistan’s win over India – as a win in the old rivals’ match – made Fakhar an instant hero in the sub-continent.
Fakhar attributes HBL Pakistan Super League as the launching pad for his career.
“PSL played a great role in lifting my career,” Fakhar said.
“We play domestic cricket a lot and get highlighted, but at the international level we got highlighted only through the PSL. I remember I scored a half-century against Karachi Kings and after that head coach Mickey Arthur told me that I was ready for Pakistan.
“So, players are groomed during the HBL PSL and it’s a good stage. It makes a lot of improvement in a player,” said Fakhar.
Fakhar believes leagues like the HBL PSL gives a burgeoning player an opportunity to rub shoulder with an international player and learn.
“I did not play in the first edition, but the next two helped me learn a lot,” remarked Fakhar. “You get a good platform and it is giving young players a very good chance to break into the Pakistan team. You improve in training, you get fitter but HBL PSL gives you good match practice. You learn new methods of training by watching international stars. You mix with the best players and play against some best players of Pakistan.
“Even if they don’t tell anything, you get to see their work ethics. You get to know why the big players get success so you follow them.”
So, obviously the next charm is to play with AB de Villiers, in fact open the innings with him. The former South Africa legend is a holder of the fastest century and 150 in an ODI.
“Its a dream come true. He retired last year, so didn’t get a chance to see him on our last tour to South Africa. But, he is in our team and I will be at the other end, so its a sleepless thought for me as to how I will feel.
“Maybe, awestruck, but I will try not to be like that as I have to bat and score runs for my team.”
Fakhar is optimistic Qalandars will not disappoint their fans in the PSL4.
“Qalandars, I think we were one dimensional last year, we mostly had hard hitters and lacked experienced middle-order,” said Fakhar, whose team had middle-order collapses to lose matches they should have won comfortably.
“So this time we have planned to have a strong middle-order. We now have AB, Hafeez, Haris Sohail and that gives us strength,” said Fakhar who made 277 runs in 10 games in PSL 3.
“I am very determined to score more runs and finish the games for my team.”