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Ryan Burl, a man 'addicted to sports'

As a 25-year old, Ryan gave up on a county career, reshaped his batting focus to fit the modern needs Chattogram Challengers

"Mine is the call… oh what a catch."

Mohammad Shahzad had top edged a slog off Kesrick Williams. From the outside it appeared tough, but fielding standards these days means infielders believe every high ball is a potential chance. Ryan Burl, running behind from cover towards the boundary, hurled himself towards the ball as it dropped fast in front of him and completed the catch, with Imrul Kayes fast approaching to celebrate with him.

In real terms, this would make the year's best catches highlights montage. In the BPL, where fielding standards have often been below par, the Burl catch is arguably the best in eight years.

"If you don't try, you'd never know," Burl tells ESPNcricinfo about the effort. "The game is becoming very athletic. There are some great fielders these days. The game is played at a high tempo. These catches make an impact. I love my fielding. I set myself pretty high standards and I am not afraid to throw myself around. Probably to my detriment as I do get injured doing it."

The catch could be looked at as an equivalent to a zero-angle direct hit run-out, a match-winning cameo or a great over, moments that can turn games, championships and galvanise careers.

"I am addicted to all sports. I have played cricket, squash, hockey and athletics through the age-groups. If there's a ball involved, I go crazy." Ryan Burl

Picked by Chattogram Challengers following his impressive showing in the T20I tri-series in Dhaka in September, Burl's maiden BPL stint couldn't have had a bigger boost. As a 25-year old, he gave up on a county career, reshaped his batting focus to fit the modern needs and prioritised playing for his country despite all the administrative challenges.

In July last year, they were given the shock of their lives when the ICC suspended Zimbabwe Cricket for government interference. While their membership was restored, it could take them many years to recover from the jolt.

They missed the World T20 qualifiers in UAE, while what was to be their first bilateral series in India since 2002 stood cancelled. Their last T20I was in October in Singapore. So for a cricketer like Burl, T20 opportunities elsewhere is a boon.

"There are some seriously talented players in Zimbabwe, but the problem is our lack of regular international fixtures to give us the exposure," he says. "But now we have the one-day league starting next year and hopefully leagues like BPL help us out by playing with foreign players from other countries."

Burl remembers going into denial when he first heard of Zimbabwe's suspension last year.

"A part of me refused to accept that I wasn't going to be allowed to play cricket again," he says. "I just never thought of it for a moment. I kept ignoring it and did my training. I tried to keep myself happy and in the zone."

While their reinstatement hasn't translated into a lot of cricket yet, Burl lives in the hope of a better future. And so , he's trying to be a better version of himself.

"I want to make an impact with batting, bowling or fielding. Coming to bat at No 5, I want to score a fifty off 25 balls," he says of his goals. "Getting a few overs in, being economical and picking up a wicket or two. It is something I have been working on for the last year. I am reaping the rewards of a bit of hard work.

"I used to be an aggressive cricketer, but when I played first-class cricket I became little bit more patient and slower. Now I have obviously tried to adapt. It has been a mental thing. I also spoke to players like Sikandar Raza and Brendan Taylor who play all these leagues. I am picking their brains and trying out a lot of things in the nets. Like reverse sweeps and ramps. It is now part and parcel of the game."

Burl was a bit of a prodigy growing up in Marondera, 80km east of Harare. He went to Peterhouse Boys School, which has England internationals Gary Balance, Tom Curran and Sam Curran, Italian rugby star Sebastian Negri and Olympic rower Peter Purcell-Gilpin among its alumni.

Burl loved squash more than cricket, but it's the mateship and camaraderie that pushed him towards a team sport.

"I am addicted to all sports," he says of his interests. "I have played cricket, squash, hockey and athletics through the age-groups. If there's a ball involved, I go crazy. I could have been better at squash than cricket when I was young.

"But the fact was that after winning a squash match, I was by myself. Whereas in cricket, you can celebrate with ten other guys in the field. I just like the camaraderie of everyone being together and enjoying each other's success. It is what I loved the most."

Now that love has evolved into an international career that needs big performances almost regularly to keep himself afloat. Burl is a shoe-in for Zimbabwe's tour of Bangladesh in February, when they play all three formats.

It will be another little window for the T20 scouts to keep him in mind for T20 leagues later in the year. Until they get regular tours and home series, Zimbabwean cricketers like Burl have to make use of every opportunity, even if it means running several yards behind them to take impossible catches.