Sui Northern Gas and Pipelines Limited (SNGPL), who retained the Quaid-e-Azam trophy earlier this week, have dedicated their title to Ali Waqas, their middle-order batsman who collapsed last year due to kidney disease. Waqas missed the 2015-16 season to undergo a successful kidney transplant in Rawalpindi.
Waqas, 26, was among the leading run-scorers with 1065 in the 2012-13 season and almost made his way into the national side when he was selected for a Pakistan A tour to Sri Lanka last year. But, ahead of the 2015 national T20 Cup, he suffered kidney failure in Rawalpindi due to hypertension. He underwent initial treatment in the USA but doctors suggested an immediate transplant, for which he had to move back to Pakistan for surgery and to find a donor.
"It was tough as I was seeing my whole cricketing career going down," Waqas told ESPNcricinfo. "But doctors suggested to me that I can easily come back into cricket after the transplant. I googled a lot to find out who are the sportsmen who have returned after such a transplant and I got ample examples to gain encouragement."
US basketball player Sean Elliott was the first professional sportsman to come back after a kidney transplant, in 2000. Former New Zealand rugby star Jonah Lomu, who died last year, continued to play at domestic level after a kidney transplant in 2004.
"I can't play cricket for at least the next eight to nine months but sometimes in cricket injuries take more than a year," Waqas said. "I am determined to return by next season. It really hurts so much inside to know that I am not competing, as I was close enough to make into the national side. I don't see myself without cricket and thinking about making a comeback all the time makes me strong. My only wish from life is to play for Pakistan and I'm going to make this possible in any case."
The transplant procedure is expensive in Pakistan and Waqas's main strength was his team-mates at SNGPL, as almost the entire team including the national players helped him financially. His donor was a stranger and, as per the guidelines, they are not allowed to meet each other. "I had a little look on my donor luckily before I went to operation theatre," Waqas said.
SNGPL captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, was very optimistic about Waqas' comeback and paid tribute to one of the most important members of the team. "He is one talented batsman with a full range of shots," Misbah told ESPNcricinfo. "He was best against the fast bowlers and his square cut was a delight to watch. To me he is a complete modern player and a solid prospect for Pakistan. He was the top-scorer in domestic some two years ago and I had no doubt about his potential. Had he kept on playing he could have easily made into the side by another year and half."
Waqas was born in Sargodha, known as the "City of Eagles", situated 170km from Lahore towards the northwest. He moved to Lahore to play cricket but is presently based in Islamabad for the clean atmosphere required after surgery.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson