Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
The day Usman Afzaal was selected for England, he phoned Nottinghamshire at 10pm, had the doors unlocked, brought along a posse of bowlers, and practised in the indoor nets until 1am. That wasn't a one-off. Mick Newell, now the Nottinghamshire coach and then the manager of the second XI, had been quoted as saying, by Daily Mail: "He's forever turning up at 10 or 11pm with a crowd of mates willing to bowl to him."
Even then Afzaal owned a flashy sports car, and was, according to his ESPNcricinfo profile, "a cocky, bare-knuckle batsman," who was "at his best against pace and straight-drove like an angel".
Reality struck soon, though, and on his first day of international cricket, Afzaal was bowled through the gate by a Shane Warne legbreak that turned a foot. England, as expected in those days, lost the Ashes, and Afzaal couldn't add to the three Tests he played. He was selected for the New Zealand tour, but according to his profile on ESPNcricinfo, "incurred the wrath of the coach, Duncan Fletcher, when he reported in New Zealand above what was considered to be his best fighting weight and has been out of favour since".
Life has been colourful and rocky since then - an affair with a Bollywood actress and a ransacking of his house by "a betting gang posing as cops", according to News of the World, in 2010 - but ironically, with Fletcher in town, Afzaal is set for another debut. This will be the first time his new restaurant, Slumdog, will be witness to a Test match. Literally a witness because - luckily, Afzaal says - it is situated opposite Trent Bridge, on Radcliffe Road.
A content family man now, Afzaal doesn't bear Fletcher any grudge. "I did my best for 15 years in first-class cricket," he says, "if I didn't make it in Tests, I didn't make it." He is fasting, this being the month of Ramadan. He is pleasantly surprised that one of his staff, a white man, is fasting too. Ask Afzaal about those days of coming into the indoor nets at 11pm, and if he misses them being so close to the ground, and he says, "Now I come here at 10pm-11pm. Now this is my cricket."