Farveez Maharoof, born on September 7, 1984, has all the ingredients of being one of the most resourceful all-rounders to emerge from Sri Lanka. Prakash Govindasreenivasan looks back at his career so far.
He runs rhythmically. The strides are little. He gathers the momentum approaches the bowling crease. The right leg is parallel to the popping crease and the open-chested action is yet another distinctive action coming from the Island nation. Welcome to the world of Farvez Maharoof, whose USP in the bowling is unremitting line and length keeping the seam upright.
Maharoof’s forte is wicket-to-wicket bowling. His bowling revolves around that simple principle.
If Maharoof were a story then the plot of the story is interspersed with a series of injuries — often agonising which prevents him from reaching the pantheon of great bowlers. A lot like his countryman Dilhara Fernando, Maharoof’s tryst with cricket, especially bowling, was a brilliant stroke of luck.
The Colombo lad picked up the bat at the age of eight, but like most Sri Lankan kids, he played multiple sports like football and touch rugby during his formative years. Having joined Wesley College —one of most reputed colleges for producing future cricket stars, Maharoof began to concentrate on his cricket. He began as a wicketkeeper-batsman and bowled occasionally until one day a certain turn of events changes the course of his life on the cricket pitch.
In a college match, five of his teammates were down with a bout of flu and Maharoof was thrown the ball to fill in. He ended up with a hat-trick after which he decided to concentrate on his bowling and give up wicket keeping. On hind sight, one can only say that it was one of his wisest decisions.
Maharoof travelled to neighbours India for an A tour in 2004 and came away with nine wickets at an average of 11.77 — the best in the tournament. Thanks to some of his notable performances like this, he was named the skipper of the Sri Lanka Under-19 team for World Cup in the same year. Sri Lanka did not go too far, but for Maharoof, it turned out to be a decent outing. He began on a great footing, finishing with figures of four for 28 from 9.3 overs against Zimbabwe Under-19 and came close to taking his team to a memorable victory over Australia Under-19, having scored a 56 from 90 deliveries.
ODI and Test debut
Maharoof made his grand entry at the international level in a match that saw Zimbabwe succumb to the lowest total in ODI history — 35 all out. Maharoof’s bowling figures read 3-1-3-3. It may have come against the minnows, but the effort was worth noticing. He picked up two more wickets in the series and got an opportunity to make his Test debut on the same tour.
3 for 9 in 10 overs
History was about to repeat itself for Maharoof. The last time he filled in for ill teammates, he ended up with a hat-trick that changed the course of his career. Here he was again, in 2005, having to fill in as the opening bowling in place of injured Chaminda Vaas in the Indian Oil Cup hosted by Sri Lanka. As it turned out, Maharoof finished with mind boggling figures of three for nine from his 10 overs in the third ODI against the West Indies. It was a phenomenal achievement, a spell that saw as many as five maiden overs.
Match-winning performance with the bat in 2006
In comparison to his ODI career, Maharoof did not enjoy as much success in the longest format of the game. Yet during the home series against South Africa in 2006, he played a crucial role with the bat in his team’s sensational one-wicket win over the visitors. Having won the first Test by a convincing margin, the hosts were made to chase the second one. With a crucial half-century down the order in the first innings, he helped Sri Lanka to reduce South Africa’s first innings lead by a considerable margin. Chasing 352, when Sri Lankan middle-order wobbled, Maharoof held up one end and added 62 vital runs with Mahela Jayawardene for the seventh wicket. After Jayawardene’s wicket with the score at 341, the Sri Lankan dressing room was struck with panic. South Africa were not ready to give up and picked up two more wickets. At 350 for nine, the hosts needed two runs for a clean sweep of the series while the visitors needed just one wicket to go level at 1-1. Maharoof and Malinga held their nerves and took their team home.
Champions Trophy 2006 exploits
Up against the defending champions West Indies, Maharoof recorded his first five-wicket haul and his career-best ODI analysis. His figures of six for 14 also went on to beat Shahid Afridi’s five for 11 to becomes the best bowling figures in the history of the tournament. All of Maharoof’s six wickets had a common template — an exceptional line that strangled the batsmen on the crease and forced them to make mistakes. He started by trapping Brian Lara in front of the stumps and went on to dismiss Wavell Hinds, Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Smith and Carlton Baugh.
World Cup 2007 record
Maharoof’s One-Day International career was blossoming at a brisk pace. Playing for the first time in a World Cup, he became the first Sri Lankan to pick up four wickets on World Cup debut when Sri Lanka played against new entrants Bermuda. He finished with figures of four for 23 as Sri Lanka thrashed the minnows by 243 runs.
Fastest Sri Lankan to 100 ODI wickets
In the same year, Maharoof went on to claim his 100th wicket in his 75th ODI, one lesser than the number matches taken by spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan to achieve this feat. It came in the third ODI during England’s tour of Sri Lanka where Maharoof trapped Kevin Pietersen in front of the wicket with a sharp inswinging delivery to enter the 100-wickets club.
Indian Premier League 2008
In the inaugural season of the Indian Premier League in 2008, Maharoof was signed by the Delhi Daredevils for $225,000 and justified his price tag with decent all-round performances. He picked up 15 wickets in the tournament and had a lot of learnings to take away from teammate and one of Australia’s finest fast bowlers Glenn McGrath. He even went on showcase his prowess with the bat when he smashed 26 runs off an over from Rajasthan Royals’ skipper Shane Warne.
Groin injury, an award and hat-trick in Asia Cup 2010
Maharoof was then hit by multiple groin injuries that threatened to put an abrupt end to his career. He lost his spot in the Test side and failed to regain full fitness for the Asia Cup 2008.
Despite winning the best ODI bowler in the first edition of Castrol Asian Cricket Awards, he had to spend time on the sidelines for as many as 18 months before returning to full action. By this time, Sri Lanka were on the verge of moving on and finding replacement for Maharoof. However, that did not deter his mind and motive to regain his spot in the side. He redeemed himself by picking up a hat-trick in the Asia Cup 2010 against India and announcing to the world that he wasn’t done yet.
However, opportunities began to reduce and he decided to ply his trade in the English county to regain his spot in the national side. He signed with Lancashire County Cricket Club in 2011 and created a record by scoring a century in his county debut. Maharoof was recalled to the Test side in the same year but failed to hold on to his spot. Erstwhile coach Stuart Law summed up his career thus far, by saying , “He hasn’t quite set the world on fire but he hasn’t done a lot wrong. It just hasn’t worked for him at this stage.”
Maharoof has played 104 ODIs for Sri Lanka, scoring 1,042 runs and picking up 133 wickets. In 22 Tests, Maharoof has 556 runs and 25 wickets to his name.
A man who relies more on accuracy than speed while bowling and on the long handle than technique while batting, Maharoof has done well to be called a handy ODI all-rounder. With the likes of Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera, who are players of the same mould, strengthening their spot in the Sri Lankan side, Maharoof’s chances of a comeback have faded away.
(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is a reporter with CricketCountry. His Twitter handle is @PrakashG_89)