Nadeem wants to keep playing, keep knocking on the door that seems to have been shut on him
"You feel proud when you realise that you have achieved something that not many are able to," Nadeem says after reaching the landmark of 500 first-class wickets
Shahbaz Nadeem recently became the latest entrant in the club of bowlers with 500 first-class wickets. He got there in the previous round of Ranji Trophy matches, at the end of which, he also had 381 wickets in the tournament, putting him in 12th place for most successful bowlers in the Ranji Trophy. For a boy from Muzaffarpur, around 80 kilometres from Patna, reaching the milestone is a "feeling of satisfaction" and also one of having "achieved something that not many are able to".
"It's a really nice feeling when, after playing for so many years [he made his first-class debut in December 2004], you reach a place like this, you achieve something big," Nadeem told ESPNcricinfo. "As a cricketer, it's a feeling of satisfaction, you feel happy. Whether you play for your country or for your state [in India's domestic circuit], you feel proud when you realise that you have achieved something that not many are able to."
Nadeem has played all his domestic cricket for Jharkhand, a total of 129 first-class matches (before the start of the latest round in the Ranji Trophy, on January 17) and 127 List A matches, plus 144 T20s, which includes 72 appearances in the IPL, where he has been with Delhi Daredevils, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Lucknow Super Giants.
Along the way, after knocking on the doors of the national team loudly and persistently for many years, he got to play two Tests: at his home venue of Ranchi, against South Africa, in October 2019, and in Chennai, against England, in February 2021. He has eight wickets from those two games.
Nadeem's career took off in right earnest after his father, a policeman, was transferred to Muzaffarpur from Dhanbad. In the 2004-05 season, he was picked to play for Jharkhand against Kerala in Jamshedpur (in Jharkhand, a state carved out of the larger state of Bihar in 2000). It was an unremarkable debut, as he picked up just two wickets in a drawn encounter, but he stuck it out, and has today made his name among India's domestic giants.
And now, after getting to 500, 600 doesn't seem too far away. Nor does the magical number of 637, the Ranji Trophy wicket-taking record that's in the name of Rajinder Goel, a left-arm spinner like Nadeem, who played 157 first-class matches between 1958-59 and 1984-85.
"When I am playing, I don't have specific targets, but yes, if you keep playing and keep performing well, you do achieve some goals, and if I can get to 653 wickets, it will be great," Nadeem said. "But it's not like that is my aim. I just want to keep performing well and making my team win."
Shahbaz Nadeem waits for 'another opportunity' in Test cricket
At 33, after more than a decade-and-a-half of professional cricket, there might not be many opportunities for Nadeem to add to those two Test appearances, but he hasn't stopped dreaming altogether.
"The only thing I can do is keep picking up wickets, as many as possible, and I am doing that," Nadeem, who has 30 wickets including three five-fors from five matches in this season's Ranji Trophy so far, said. "I was third in the wicket-takers' list last season [with 25 wickets from five matches], and I have been picking up wickets this season too.
"I feel that if, season after season, I am among the top wicket-takers, Inshallah, I can get another opportunity to play Test cricket."
Before that, though, there is a Ranji Trophy campaign to worry about, and for Jharkhand, placed third in Elite Group C behind Karnataka and Kerala at the moment, the remaining games are massive. As they are for Nadeem, who might tick off a few more milestones before he feels he has had enough.
Syed Hussain is a Multimedia Journalist at ESPNcricinfo Hindi @imsyedhussain