South Africa holds a special place in left-arm spin bowler, middle-order batsman Mohammad Nawaz’s heart. Not only is it the country which he toured with the U19s in 2012 but it was on his way there that he met his wife, Izdihaar, who was travelling with her family on the same flight. With this recently-formed special connection to Cape Town, suffice to say, he is keen to get in a lot of cricket practice between now and the proposed Pakistan tour to South Africa in December.
Over the past week, a lot of mention has been made about batsman Fawad Alam’s non-inclusion in the Test squad touring Ireland and England next month but less so about Nawaz’s absence. Although he made his ODI debut at Malahide, the very ground where Pakistan will be playing Ireland in the latter’s first international Test match, he refrains from responding negatively on the topic and simply says “I am hopeful I will be back in whites soon.”
Mohammad Nawaz started his international career with the U15s and played for the Rawalpindi region, following which he toured the West Indies in 2008. He then toured South Africa and went to Malaysia for the Asia Cup. He played in the U19 WC in Australia in 2012, where he was captained by current run machine Babar Azam.
When queried about giving up his studies during college, he gives a humorous response. “I was a good student, no doubt but after touring the Windies, I began to spend all my time at the ground.”
Nawaz has yet to partake in international T20 leagues such as the Caribbean and Bangladesh Premier Leagues but he believes he has benefitted from both T10 and the Pakistan Super League. “The T10 format is good for T20 because one has to improvise on every ball. This helps in white ball cricket.”
Notwithstanding his containing Peshawar Zalmi captain Darren Sammy in moist conditions and playing a role in helping Quetta Gladiators to the final in the 2017 edition of the tournament, he feels the PSL has provided a befitting platform to develop one’s skills. On a personal level, he says he is privileged to have been able to interact with Sir Vivian Richards as well as Kevin Pieterson.
The laughter in his voice indicates that he was expecting a question on Karachi Kings’ captain, Imad Wasim. Does he see the fellow left-arm as his strongest competition, because fans of the two do have heated online discussions about who should bat higher up the order. He responds diplomatically like his counterpart, too. “We’re very much the same in terms of being left-arm all-rounders and he performs well, so this is a good thing. The sense of competition between us makes the bench strength strong for the team.”
Nawaz cites the return of international cricket to Pakistan, as something wonderful for both the participants and supporters of cricket. “It is so good to play in front of a home crowd, which was missing in the recent past. With it returning slowly, there will be a positive impact on domestic cricket too.”
How excited is he on hearing the Asia Cup will take place in the UAE? “For cricket lovers, it is the next big thing. India-Pakistan will be a special match and I want to work particularly hard for that tournament.”
Given that it has been his bowling skills that have been at the forefront of his most memorable performances so far, it comes as a surprise that his two favourite players are batting legends Kumar Sangakkara and Brian Lara. “I want to work hard and perform well so that fruitful opportunities arise. I want to show my batting skills more on the international level. I know I have the ability, so I must perform well as an all-rounder.”
In the upcoming Pakistan Cup, should injury permit, Imad Wasim will be captaining Federal and Mohammad Nawaz will be playing for Balochistan. Since Imad Wasim too, has been wanting to showcase his batting abilities, to this effect, it sounds like both players will be competing against one another very strongly in the foreseeable future.