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Babar hoping for Pakistan chance

Despite being nearly 34, Zulfiqar Babar continues to work for an opportunity at international level

Umar Farooq

November 29, 2012

Comments: 20 | Text size: A | A

Raza Hasan runs in to bowl, Pakistan v Australia, 1st T20I, Dubai, September 5, 2012
The 20-year-old left-arm spinner Raza Hasan is one of those keeping Zulfiqar Babar out of the Pakistan set-up © AFP
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It has been 65 years since any one walked into the national side from Okara, a small town southwest of Lahore. The 85-year-old Israr Ali, who played in Pakistan's first Test in 1952, was the last. His international career was short and frustrating but, six decades later, left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar could be set to emulate Israr.

With 62 wickets, Babar is the leading bowler in the President's Trophy charts ahead of the final. He will turn to 34 on December 10, the same day the selectors will be finalising the Pakistan squad for their ODI and T20I series against India.

Okara is nearly 85 miles away from Lahore, a district of Sahiwal Division of Punjab. The agricultural town has fertile land, with fields of potato, tomato, sugarcane, wheat, rice and corn and in sports it's a significant nursery for hockey. Cricket is a popular sport in the region but only a dozen clubs are active, with the Gymkhana Cricket Ground the only proper cricket facility. Cricket is mainly played in the open uneven fields around the outskirts of the city.

In 2009-10, Babar had his most productive season with 96 wickets, ahead of another left-arm spinner, the Pakistan international Abdur Rehman, who took 88. Although he has been contention for last three years and was selected for Pakistan A tours to Sri Lanka and West Indies, he has continued to be ignored. He was named in the list of probables for the England tour in 2010 but never made into the squad.

Although his team, Water and Power Development Authority, didn't qualify for the final of the President's Trophy, Babar signed off the ninth and final round with his fifth five-wicket haul, ripping through the Pakistan International Airlines line-up at Mirpur in 6.3 overs. His current first-class strike rate of 45.1 compares well with the likes of Saeed Ajmal (58.7), Abdur Rehman (59.3) and Raza Hasan (63.8), Pakistan's current first-choice spinners.

"Life in a small town isn't really intimidating," Babar told ESPNcricinfo. "Obviously facilities here aren't that good, as in bigger cities, but ultimately it's the ability and performance that matter. I don't need to depend on bigger cities to be seen or heard. I sit here, with plenty of experience under my belt, having taken the most number of wickets and looking for an opportunity for the national team."

"I remember when Mohsin Khan was the chief selector, he had been in touch with me and talked about my future and opportunities but now it has been quite a while since any selectors came down to me to talk. Now I think the only option left is to perform heavily."

In 2000 Babar's mentor, Shahid Munir, died in a car accident and Babar spent nearly ten years in the wilderness, without a certain future in cricket. He missed five season between 2002-03 to 2006-07, during which he played low-profile district matches, club cricket and random T20 tournaments in the UAE as a guest player, before returning for Multan region to play in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy in 2007. He had an average season, with just 13 wickets in five matches out of nine.

 
 
"What I want is to keep pinching the selectors with my performances. I am not afraid of any contest with anyone, I know a time will come that nobody will stop me from playing for Pakistan."
 

Babar has no regrets about missing so much cricket and is not worried that at 34 he has lost his best time. "The ideal age to play for Pakistan is 25 but that's doesn't mean I am done with my cricket," he said. "I have an example in Ajmal and [Australia's Brad] Hogg that motivates me that cricket these days is all about fitness and performance and not just the age. For the best of my interests I am keeping myself strong and I don't mind waiting more to pursue an international career. I have been doing rigorous workouts to keep myself fit."

For Babar age isn't really a concern compared to the strong contest between him and the spinners already engaged with the national side. "Raza might be ahead of me for different reasons but Test and limited-overs cricket are a different ball game and he is good with the short format of the game and I am comfortable for the longer format," Babar said. "What I want is to keep pinching the selectors with my performances. I am not afraid of any contest with anyone, I know a time will come that nobody will stop me from playing for Pakistan.

"I started playing cricket thinking to play for my country and pursing the goal I have taken a lot of time to reach the big stage. Everyone does something for their livelihood and I have chosen cricket but still I have no regrets and am optimistic for a better future."

PCB selectors are gathering in Lahore to witness the National Twenty20 to select a party for the India tour. The nine-day T20 contest, in which Babar will feature for Multan, provides him with another opportunity to nudge the selectors. "Life has been so tricky, as I think I have already made an impact with my consistency in four-day cricket, where selectors didn't come to witness me," he said. "Twenty20 cricket is more like a shortcut to make an impact and I am also ready for it."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by davidatlas999 on (December 1, 2012, 16:50 GMT)

i thought he is a medium fast bowler from last two year.:D

Posted by Talhacroft on (December 1, 2012, 14:58 GMT)

His current first-class strike rate of 45.1 compares well with the likes of Saeed Ajmal (58.7), Abdur Rehman (59.3) and Raza Hasan (63.8) is good enough to bring him in the national side. Also took three times 10 wicket in the match.

One thing we should keep in mind that India will not go for spinning tracks which is their weakness.

Posted by Dark.Matter on (December 1, 2012, 2:31 GMT)

he is good but not good enough and now 34 and a spinner so no chance.....

Posted by syed.r.karim on (November 30, 2012, 21:18 GMT)

Where is SADAF HUSSAIN ? Is the guy missed the President's Trophy? I like him in to the national team.

Posted by   on (November 30, 2012, 14:59 GMT)

I think age shouldn't matter, if Babar is as good as he claims then he deserves opportunity!

Posted by AzharHaleem on (November 30, 2012, 13:49 GMT)

good performer should have a chance as he has lot of experience of domestic cricket

Posted by   on (November 30, 2012, 10:57 GMT)

this is fustrating, when is pakistan gonna produce quality fast bowlers instead of spinners. That aside indian batsmen are gonna demoralise paksitani spinners, even saeed ajmal, we need an amir or asif back in the team to strengthen the bowling attack. 1 spinner in a side is enough.

Posted by   on (November 30, 2012, 10:10 GMT)

He is my townmate. He is an Awesome guy

Posted by   on (November 30, 2012, 8:05 GMT)

The photo caption "The 20-year-old left-arm spinner Raza Hasan is one of those keeping Zulfiqar Babar out of the Pakistan set-up" depicts that Raza Hasan is at fault.

Posted by Cricket_Man on (November 30, 2012, 6:34 GMT)

He deserves a chance and I am not saying this just by reading his interview but by watching his performances.

Posted by Naeem578 on (November 30, 2012, 6:34 GMT)

Looks a tough guy by reading his thoughts n i wish him the best wishes for his spirit. It will be interesting to see him in Faysal Bank T 20.

Posted by   on (November 30, 2012, 4:43 GMT)

This man has such a positive attitude. I hope he breaks into the international side having performed so well for so long.

Posted by Usm93 on (November 30, 2012, 0:43 GMT)

Hope the best for him.Keep walking ;D

Posted by El_Toro_Loco on (November 30, 2012, 0:14 GMT)

O c'mon, not another spinner! Pak need to churn out premier fast bowlers & half decent batsmen, got enough of these boring spinners in the team. Ciao

Posted by Umms on (November 29, 2012, 21:29 GMT)

I really hope he gets his chance. Over the years many players from small and big ciites are neglected due to nepotism and lack of vision. Though it happens in every system, but the wilderness we have is second to none. We tried many players time and again for nothing, Imran Farhat, Shoaib Malik are the prime example for it. Even it is observed that from a city like Karachi not many players get a chance, either PCB officals intentioanlly give the chance to under average players from Karachi or players who have not performed. Sami was tested in Srilanka series why? Where is Tanvir Ahmed, Khalid Latif. There is not a single representation from Quetta/Balochistan? Even from punjab, only those selected who are luck enough to get contacted with selectors and their PAs. Cowasjee rightly said we dont learn from our mistakes.How many U-19 players make it to senior level?

Posted by JamesTHEwalldravid on (November 29, 2012, 20:14 GMT)

He has been an absolute monster on the domestic circuit and I have followed him for a long. 278 wickets at 20 and at a strike rate of 45! His strike rate is especially impressive since he is a spinner. Economy of 2.69. The only reason he has not gotten a chance is politics and a corrupt criteria based on contacts rather than performance. However he is not the only one. This is life Pakistan cricket. Sadly. Dozens of great pace bowlers disappear so that Mohammed Sami with an average of 50 can play another game. Fawad Alam averages almost 60 and instead Imran Farhat is picked because his father in law is (was) a selector. What happened to Akhar Ayub? He was lighting fast as was Waqas Ahmed. Poor management and selection. Why hasn't Mohammad Talha been given a chance? He got a five-for against England in the warm up game in the UAE and was reported to have quite some pace. All politics.

Posted by Stark62 on (November 29, 2012, 19:41 GMT)

I don't promote the inclusion of players above the age of 25 (not unless they are already established or very, very talented) but this guy definitely deserves a chance and is a far superior left arm spinner to Rehman and Hasan.

Posted by   on (November 29, 2012, 19:23 GMT)

respect to his indomitable character & passion

Posted by Syed_imran_abbas on (November 29, 2012, 17:46 GMT)

well never heard of him before but he sounds good with statistics. i wish him good luck but surprisngly paksitans current problem is fast bowling. Pakistan is having plenty of quality spinners in likes of Ajmal and Rehman (he can bat as well) in test and ajmal afridi, hafeez in limited over games. Anwar Ali and Haris Sohail are currently very good contenders for national side and i hope they get a chance soon. Anwar ali is far better than like of Hammad Azam, as he can take wickets and he can bat as well.

Posted by mainul079080 on (November 29, 2012, 17:34 GMT)

This kind of performing player should be given a chance, i mean a fair enough longer run in PAK team to see his performance in international arena. Age should never be a bar. Could we get the great Saeed Ajmal if age would have been the great considering factor?Moreover a young talent should be allowed to perform at least 3 years in first class before picking up in national side. Otherwise there will be premature ending of a promising carier.I think Raja Hasan is too young to be picked up.Babar will be a better option at least in test & ODI. Fawad Alam also should be picked up. He is also being ignored unfairly by PAK selectors. He is definitely better than Umar Akmal,Misbah & Asad.

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