Saeed Anwar-inspired Haseebullah Khan dreams big
Since the introduction of revamped domestic structure in 2019, Balochistan – one of the six teams of the current setup – have struggled to find their feet. They looked like a second-tier team featuring out-of-favour, struggling players from Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
However, who would have thought that in three years’ time, they will turn the tide in their favour and went on to lift the top-tier 50-over title, the Pakistan Cup, thanks to impressive performances from a couple of young cricketers from the region – Haseebullah Khan and Abdul Wahid Bangalzai.
Sharing his success story, Mohammad Yousuf and Saeed Anwar-inspired Haseebullah is eyeing to become the first player from the province to represent Pakistan in Test cricket.
“Since childhood, my only aim is to represent Pakistan across all-formats,” he told SAMAA Digital in an exclusive interview. “There isn’t any player from Balochistan, who represented Pakistan in Test cricket. My goal is to achieve this feat as soon as possible.”
Being a wicketkeeper-batter, his path to the national team won’t be easy, especially in the presence of first-choice Mohammad Rizwan, former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, hard-hitter Azam Khan and energetic Mohammad Haris.
When asked about it, the 20-year-old, who idolises Fakhar Zaman among current cricketers, said that he believes in hard work and has faith in Allah Almighty. “I know the Pakistan team has several options when it comes to keeping wickets,” he said. “My focus is on performance, and has a strong faith in Allah that I will get my opportunity.”
Before becoming a renowned name in Pakistan cricket, his journey wasn’t easy. Growing up in a city where basic training facilities are virtually non-existent, as compared to Lahore and Karachi, the left-hander had to punch above his weight.
“I practiced with my father [Aziz ullah] and uncle [Hameed ullah],” he said. “Both of them were first-class cricketers. I used to go to the ground with them.”
Apart from his father and uncle, Secretary Sports Imran Gichki, National selector Sana Baloch, Balochistan coach Aslam Sheikh and U19 Balochistan head coach Hussain Khosa played a crucial part in bringing him into the limelight.
From cricket gear to other financial assistance, he said, they always have stood behind him. This assistance helped him dream big.
The southpaw became the center of attention at the recently concluded Under-19 Cricket World Cup, where he scored a total of 380 runs with the help of two tons at an average of 76.
He believes that his impressive performance was the result of tireless hard work and years of dedication to the game.
“I waited for the World Cup for two years,” he said. “I attended the World Cup 2020 camp and was among the 20 players. My goal was to represent Pakistan in the mega event. I worked very hard to get into the team and when finally I got the opportunity, I made most of it. During the event, I shared the dressing room with some great players. I learned a lot from coaches Ijaz Ahmed and Mohtashim Rasheed.”
The World Cup performance wasn’t enough to satisfy Haseebullah. In the Pakistan Cup, he smashed three centuries in 12 innings, accumulating 614 runs at an average of 55.81 across the tournament.
“My confidence was high after performing at the World Cup,” he said. “I joined Test camp after that, where I shared the dressing room with senior players. I shared my batting plan with them and worked with Pakistan team coaches to improve my batting skills.”
“When I joined Balochistan, all Test players and seniors motivated me. When Asad [Shafique] saw me in the nets he said that you [Haseeb] have to score runs in the tournament for the side. This is a kind of motivation they gave to every youngster. That is why whenever one of us performed in the tournament our side won.”
Moreover, he is optimistic to showcase his talent in the Pakistan Super League season eight next year. “I love every PSL franchise, but for me, if I have to pick one to represent it would be Quetta Gladiators.”
Haseebullah’s journey so far has been an inspiring one for young cricketers in Pakistan due to his hard work and determination. This may not be his time, due to stiff competition from Rizwan and Sarfaraz, but one thing is for sure he has a bright future ahead.