As Misbah Ul Haq scored the winning run in the final of PSL 2016, there were huge celebrations in Islamabad United’s dressing room. But, there was one player cheering for his team at his home with an injured shoulder, he was Umar Siddiq. After going through a tough one and a half year, the left-handed wicketkeeper-batsman is now hoping to celebrate the win this time in the stadium with his new team Multan Sultans.
Things were going smoothly for Siddiq in 2016, he was picked by Islamabad United, he was excited to play alongside players like Misbah Ul Haq, Andre Russell and Shane Watson. He was ready to perform on the big stage. Moreover, he had also earned a call for Pakistan ‘A’ squad for the touring England Lions to Dubai, which meant he was a step closer to represent Pakistan. But, as he was honing his skills for the coming challenges, just a couple of days before the start of PSL, he dived during a practice session and dislocated his shoulder badly. “Ahead of the PSL, I was hoping to be picked by a franchise as I was a consistent performer. I was very happy to get selected, but God had other plans for me and I could not feature the inaugural edition of the league,” told Umar Siddiq. “Just three days before start of the first edition of PSL, I dived during a practice session and dislocated my shoulder so badly that it was in plaster for around four months and I could not do anything for more than a year,” he added.
He was broken, he was extremely close to living all his dreams, but yet too far. Umar Siddiq belongs to a cricketing family, his father Mohammad Siddiq was a Test umpire, his brother Kashif Siddiq was a First Class cricketer and he started playing cricket in 2006-2007 from his father’s own academy, Ludhiana Gymkhana. His father was always in favour of Umar pursuing cricket as a career, while his brother wanted him to just keep it as a hobby. However, after the death of his father, his elder brother started supporting him. It was his elder brother who helped him recover mentally after the career-threatening shoulder injury. His brother gave him confidence that he will make a comeback in the competitive cricket soon, “During the span, I never feared for my career, I was motivated all the time and wanted to get back into the field. These injuries are a part of cricketers’ career, there is always some uncertainties and we know it,” he told.
Umar Siddiq had a rather calm beginning to his career without many hiccups. Trained and mentored by his brother, who was also a left-handed batsman, he started off his journey by getting selected for Lahore U-16 and later playing for the region at the U-19 level. He was aiming to play for Pakistan U-19, but unfortunately, he got over-aged by the time opportunity arrived. He believes had he played for the national U-19 side, his First Class career would have started earlier. “When you play Pakistan U-19 you get highlighted and picked by a department. As I did not play for Pakistan U-19, I had to play for my region Lahore for two to three years before making my First Class debut,” he said.
Siddiq had a quiet start to his First Class career as he could not perform well in his first season in 2012. But, the next two seasons belonged to him, he scored over 800 and 900 runs in the next two seasons respectively that got him a call from UBL. Finding a place in such a star-studded side of UBL was not easy for him in his fourth season. He could only manage a spot when some of the players left for national duty. Umar grabbed the opportunity with both hands and scored around 550 runs in six matches with the courtesy of two centuries.
The 25-year old was racing towards the top, but the injury held him back. He could not train for more than a year and missed out the second edition of the PSL because of the same injury. He was having the toughest spell of his career, at that time, another cricketer inspired him to not to give up the hope. “I got two surgeries, doctors put a rod in my shoulder. I was under rehab for around two months, it was a very tough time for me,” he told. “Haris Sohail was with me in the rehab, he had undergone a knee surgery and he was a source of inspiration for me during the period. He used to work very hard during those days, he already had spent almost a year there, I used to think if he can work that hard, why can’t I?” he shared.
After restless hard work of almost one and a half years, Umar Siddiq finally made his comeback in four-day cricket in the latter part of 2017 without any mental block. “The injury has not affected me mentally, I still dive with the passion while keeping, I don’t have any fear of being hurt again, though our grounds are not in the best conditions,” he told. “When I need to dive, I just go for it without thinking, it is my reflex action. “
Umar Siddiq is once again feeling the excitement ahead of the PSL 3 as he felt before the first edition. Playing under the coaching Wasim Akram and Tom Moody will be a great learning curve for the 25-year old. “I am very excited to play for Multan Sultans in the PSL, I am looking forward to make efforts to make my team victorious,” he said breathlessly. “Having exposure with big names is essential, sharing the dressing room with them can teach me a lot,” he added.
Multan Sultans will also feature the legendary Sri Lankan wicketkeeper-batsman Kumar Sangakkara, he is an ideal mentor for any player like Umar Siddiq who is a left-handed batsman and keeps wicket. “I am extremely excited to play alongside Kumar Sangakkara, he is a legendary batsman and a wicketkeeper. Even his smallest of advice will boost my confidence, every input from him will be priceless for me. I will look to make the most out of this opportunity,” he expressed.
He knows that there is a huge difference between the standard of cricket in PSL and domestic circuit. But, it is not making him nervous, he is up for the challenge and determined to go in the tournament with his aggressive batting style. “I am not nervous, I am excited about the occasion, playing with players that I used to watch on TV, playing against or with international stars will be a different experience,” he told.
Every Pakistani cricketer knows that performing well in PSL can push them directly to the national squad, which has become a great motivation for young players. “Performing well in PSL can land you in the national team. Every player wants to play a key role for their respective teams. My ultimate goal is to represent Pakistan,” said Umar Siddiq. “PSL is a huge opportunity for that, where you can perform and advance into the national side,” he concluded.