Umran Malik & Zaman Khan: Two pacers defining the speed rush on either side of India – Pakistan border

Umran Malik & Zaman Khan: Two pacers defining the speed rush on either side of India – Pakistan border

Malik, 22, touches 150 kph everytime he takes the field this IPL. He has electrified the rather low-key season, bumped up the TRPs and given India the outline of a pace muscle they always wanted.

A crow needs to fly barely 100 kilometres to go from Gujjar Nagar in Jammu to Chakswari in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. The residents of these towns on either side of the prickly border don’t have it that easy. Wars and war-mongering have moved them a world apart. Still the long shared history of this once united region has preserved their common culture, language, folklores and, now, even cricketing fairy tales.

One of which goes like this.

Far away from the country’s cricketing hub, a young boy develops a junoon for fast bowling. His family, uninitiated to the world of cricketing riches, discourages him. The love is obsessive, he doesn’t drop the ball. Spotted by a local coach, the young tearaway is fast-tracked from his club to the state unit. It doesn’t take long for the T20 franchise talent spotters to swoop in. The raw speedster goes under the wings of a pace legend, becoming the country’s new pace hope. A call from the national team is now awaited.

For those following the Indian Premier League, this is the story about Umran Malik, Sun Risers Hyderabad and Dale Steyn. Across the border, it is about the Pakistan Super League, Zaman Khan, Lahore Qalandars and Aquib Javed.

Malik, 22, touches 150 kph everytime he takes the field this IPL. He has electrified the rather low-key season, bumped up the TRPs and given India the outline of a pace muscle they always wanted. Fruit-seller’s son, no formal training, tennis ball star turned national sensation; Malik has been this IPL’s find.

Almost everything is the same for Zaman, 20, son of a daily labourer from Chakswari. His family lived in a mud-plastered kucha jhopdi with tin sheds. Zaman was sent to a madarsa as a child, since his father wanted him to be a Quran hafiz. The young boy, between breaks from studying holy scriptures, unknown to his father, would play cricket. Local coaches impressed by his speed would send him to Mirpur to sharpen his skills.

Unlike Umran, Zaman’s walk into the spotlight was slow and, at times, frustrating. In Pakistan, pacers with speed aren’t a novelty. You shake a tree and a quartet would fall.

Zaman did represent Pakistan in age-group cricket, but once he turned 20, the doors shut on him. The pool got bigger and deeper, the fishes here were faster and hungrier. For the boy from a large family and frugal income, there was no Plan B. “I couldn’t go home since I had quit the madarsa. Not making it in cricket would mean, the villagers would have called me a failure,” he told a Pakistan youtube channel recently.

Then came the twist. One fine morning, Mirpur got visitors. They were the talent spotters from PSL’s Lahore Qalandars. Among them was Aaquib Javed, the World Cup winner, reputed coach and a mentor for a generation of Pakistan pacers. He is also known to pick world-class pacers from a crowd of thousands.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=morhu_hrBzk%3Fenablejsapi%3D1%26amp%3D1%26playsinline%3D1

Months later, the bowler with a slingy action, a life-long Lasith Malinga and Shoaib Akhtar fan, was being hailed as the next big Pakistan pacer. Qalandars would win the league, Zaman won the respect of the dressing room for bowling a crucial final over, a couple of Man of the Match awards and at least four Iphones as incentive from the overjoyed and highly indulgent owners.

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