Tuesday, June 25, 2024

PCB: From Mardan to Mirpur, Sajid Khan’s inspiring cricket journey

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Photo Credit: Pakistan Cricket Board

  • Urdu version of release is attached here

Mardan-born off-spinner Sajid Khan has made rapid strides over the course of the last two years but his ascent to the highest level of cricket is a tale of relentless struggle, hard work, determination and a never-say-die attitude spread over two decades.

The 28-year-old made his Test debut against Zimbabwe in Harare last season and has already collected 18 wickets in his first four Tests.

The highlight of Sajid’s short Test career has been his heroics in the Mirpur Test against Bangladesh in December, the off-spinner took 12 wickets in the match including eight in the first innings to lead Pakistan’s innings and eight runs victory in the ICC World Test Championship fixture.

According to Sajid his cricketing story begins at the age of eight.

“My story begins from when I was eight years old. I have two elder brothers, one is a rickshaw driver the other runs a grocery shop. Only those without a father would know what a struggle it is. When I grew up and started college I used do to some odd sport related jobs like fixing bat handles and grips and making between PKR 4 to 500, I used to also sell cell phones to make some money that I could spend on purchasing cricket gear.

Despite his obvious promise and potential, Sajid failed to find a permanent slot in Peshawar sides to the sheer quality and depth that the first-class and Grade II squads especially as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regularly started unearthing players of international quality.

Sajid decided to try his luck in Dubai where he juggled between a work at the Dubai Airport and weekend cricket opportunities.  

“After U18 cricket, I barely got a chance to play Grade II cricket because Peshawar had a quality side and I could not make my way through that is when I left for Dubai. I used to work at Dubai Airport for five days and play cricket two days in the week. I had a six months visa but I didn’t even stay for six months as my mother asked me to return.”

After returning from Dubai, Sajid finally made a long awaited breakthrough as Imran Khan Snr handed him perhaps the best cricket gift he could have hoped for at that stage of his career.

“I found an opportunity to appear in Grade II trials, I got selected and joined the camp. At the camp Imran Khan Snr saw me, at that time Imran had played a few Tests for Pakistan, he asked me if I had cricket shoes but I couldn’t say to him I didn’t. Imran realised that I didn’t have cricket shoes so he took out a pair of cricket spikes and handed them to me.

“My first match was for Peshawar against Wapda, with-in four overs I had taken six wickets and that is when my career took off. Once the domestic structure was revamped, I got an opportunity to play for the second XI and I scored 96 runs and took 13 wickets in a match against Balochistan.  I was immediately picked for the first XI (first-class) and I played my first match against Balochistan and took eight wickets.

Sajid still has a long journey ahead of him and has big aspirations and dreams, he insists that hard work, perseverance and determination is what is required to succeed in cricket instead of a recommendation or source. He is a firm believer in letting your performance talk for you as he credits his mother for the turnaround in his life.

“People who claim that you can’t play cricket without any recommendation or source lie, I would say it is a total lie. If you work hard and stay determined you are rewarded, I have fought hard and struggled for 20 years and then only have I reached here without any recommendation or source. I only work hard and respect my elders, whatever I have achieved, I have achieved due to my mother’s unflinching support. I owe everything to her and even today I look up to her for support, guidance and prayers.” 

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