Yes, definitely, that was my childhood dream. At one stage I didn't think I would go so far, as I was the eldest in the family - I had to start working, and I found a job which taught me a lot about life. I was packing people's things. I was in a retail store in Lahore. One day, I went for a cricket trial with a friend and that is where things changed for me. I would like to mention Mr Shahid, who was a selector at that time who encouraged me and picked me. He gave me an opportunity and I took 11 wickets in the first game and I realised that I could achieve my dream.
For me, nothing can break me. I've never said that in an interview before. I came through a lot of hard hurdles and I crossed them, and I don't think anything can be tougher than that. It was just a game for me and I tried my best. It was the worst game of my life, though. The good thing was that we didn't lose the match. We played good cricket as a team and Faf du Plessis played the innings of his life. I got dropped for the next game and I understood that I did not deserve another opportunity. I worked hard and waited for another opportunity. When I made my comeback, I proved that I could play Test cricket.
Abdul Qadir is a genius, a legend, and the best according to me. I always wanted to be like him on the field. I am close to his family and I asked him for tips to improve my bowling and about his experiences. He gave me advice which I will never forget. The advice from him really helped me. Obviously, I cannot be like him because he was naturally gifted and I had to work hard on my skills. I am a different bowler and if I try to emulate him, I might end up being an average bowler. I believe you should stick to whatever suits you best rather than being someone else and end up being nothing.
"I don't believe in playing for the sake of it. I believe in playing for the people I represent and doing justice to the hard work I've put in"
I always wondered why I couldn't be a part of the IPL. At that point of time, I wasn't playing international cricket, so I had to bide my time. I always felt I had the ability to do well in the IPL. Since it is believed that Indian players are the best players of spin, I did not make it initially, which I can understand, but from my point of view, I always felt I was good enough to be a part of the IPL. My overall one-day and T20 records are up there with the very best. So I felt sad when guys who had an inferior record to me got to play in the IPL while I was not a part of it.
It was actually after the game. I saw a girl standing and tried to catch her attention but she ignored me. We then met at the airport after a week, when I was returning to Pakistan. I spoke to her dad and got their address and contact number, after which I started writing letters to her. It took me ten years to win her heart.
There have been a few hard patches in my life. In those years, there was no one around to help. I lost my parents, which is the toughest thing to overcome. After my father passed away, I started taking cricket really seriously as he had told me the year before he passed away that he will pray a lot for me and he would like me to do well in cricket, and become like Imran Khan (laughs). I wish he could see me and where I am today.
I think this has always been inside me. I once played a charity game where I took a brilliant catch. Even then I celebrated in my usual way. Normally guys don't mind getting hit in charity games, but I wanted to take a wicket there as well and not get hit. I am the kind of person who will give his best every single time. I cannot underperform unless I'm playing with kids. Actually, I'd probably still get angry if they try to hit me! The celebration just comes naturally. I don't sit in my room and decide how I'm going to celebrate. It is spontaneous and something that cannot be explained. It is just the love I have for the game. It's just the passion.
One of my dreams was to win the World Cup. It was a pretty good team effort [in the 2015 World Cup] and we went pretty close. That is one thing I want to achieve.
Arya Yuyutsu is a multimedia journalist at ESPNcricinfo