Better late than never for Rafatullah
For 19 years Rafatullah Mohmand has grafted away on the Pakistan domestic circuit. Recently, the 39-year-old has pondered retirement but now he is on the brink of fulfilling the dream of an international debut having been included in the T20 squad for the series against England and staking a claim for the World T20.
Since 1996 Rafatullah has not missed a single season. He started his career for his native team Peshawar and later joined Habib Bank Limited and is presently representing WAPDA. His name was floated around for national selection in 2006 when he was enjoying a consistent run in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy with Peshawar, where he finished second-highest run-scorer in the Gold League, but he only reached as far as the Pakistan A side for a Top End one-day tournament in Australia.
"I have been playing cricket for a long time and like many I also had a dream to represent the country at highest level," Rafatullah said after his national selection. "But we all know how big the competition is in Pakistan and you only few get a chances but I am happy that I finally got a chance. Now, I know I have less time so my target in whatever the time left is I want to do my best and help Pakistan to win matches.
"Whatever I have learnt and whatever I know I will transform it at the top level. It been a very long time I have been playing domestic and I have been use to of it. Obviously every cricket player has a dream to play and after such prolonged domestic career came at certain stage of my career where I was thinking about quitting. But now I have a chance and whatever the age is I want to perform and if I am not able to give perform well I will move aside."
In the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons, Rafatullah averaged over fifty in List A cricket but he could not quite do enough to force his way to the top of the list. In 2009 he was involved in a first-class world-record second-wicket stand of 580 with Aamer Sajjid where he finished unbeaten on a career-best 302.
At a time when he was struggling to earn a national call-up despite his consistent runs, he tried emigrating to Afghanistan in a bid to play the ICC World Cup Qualifier in 2009 but his name was later withdrawn as he would not have spent the required four years in the country.
In the 2012-13 season he trebled his number of one-day hundreds as he scored 425 runs in six matches with three centuries, but it was this year's Haier Mobile T20 Cup which finally brought him his reward after scoring 230 runs at a strike-rate of 157.53 to help Peshawar to the title. He was also considered one of the fittest players available and before selection, Rafatullah was called up in the National Cricket Academy for a fitness test and ESPNcricinfo understands he has passed with distinction. If he makes his debut, he will be the oldest T20 international debutant for a Full Member.
"We always talk about youngsters but they are raw and with World T20 ahead we want an experienced campaigner," Haroon Rasheed, the chief selector, told ESPNcricinfo. "Rafat is the one we think can give us what we need in the line-up. He is among the fittest guys in our domestic circuit and his form, we have seen him batting in the recent T20.
"He knows that he doesn't have much time but we wanted to reward him for his persistence in domestic cricket. He has been an outstanding batsman in T20 for his team Peshawar. Having experience of playing first-class cricket for many years, with his form, sound technique and fitness, and also given his fielding credentials, he has been afforded an opportunity as he was considered to have potential to feature in an international T20 competition as an opener."
Pakistan have never been afraid to throw a player in young. Now they have shown they don't mind blooding them somewhat older, too.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson