Jamal Anwar (third from left). Photo Courtesy: PakPassion.net
By Saj Sadiq
Wicketkeeper Jamal Anwar made his domestic debut in 2008 and since then has played 58 First-Class, 27 List A and 34 Twenty20 (T20) matches. He has effected over 300 dismissals and has scored 2,000-plus runs. A belligerent limited-overs batsman, the 23-year-old averages over 42 with the bat in the List A format.
Anwar, who is currently one of Pakistan‘s most highly-rated young wicketkeepers, hit the headlines when as an 18-year-old he took 10 catches to beat the Pakistani domestic record for the most number of catches taken by a player on First-Class debut. He has represented the Federal Areas, Pakistan Under-19s, Habib Bank Limited and the Rawalpindi Rams.
PakPassion.net caught up with Jamal Anwar to talk about his form in domestic cricket, the challenges of wicketkeeping and his hopes of representing Pakistan in the future.
PP: You last spoke to us a couple of years ago. What have been the major developments in your career in the subsequent two-year period?
Jamal Anwar: At the moment, I am working hard, playing domestic cricket on a regular basis and feeling very fit. I am trying my best to perform and I am hoping to impress the selectors with consistent performances. For the last two years, I’ve been consistently playing domestic cricket and trying to impress the national selectors through my performances on the field.
PP: You continue to be mentioned as someone who should be given a chance to play for Pakistan in the limited overs formats. Do you feel any frustration about the fact that you’ve not yet been given a chance?
Jamal Anwar: I don’t get frustrated at all. In fact, I find that the healthy competition motivates me and my eagerness to perform well increases. It’s true, I haven’t had the chance to play for Pakistan as yet, but that’s not an issue. I feel I should work harder and perform even better so that when I do get that chance, I grab it with both hands. I am looking forward to performing well in domestic cricket and Insha Allah [God-willing], when I receive the opportunity, I will try my best to not let anyone down.
PP: Sabih Azhar [PCB Regional Head Coach] has identified you as a cricketer with a lot of potential. How does that make you feel?
Jamal Anwar: Sabih bhai is like a father to me. He was the one who introduced me to cricket and taught me how to play. He is my teacher and my coach and has very high hopes for my career. The fact that I am here talking to you as a cricketer is all because of him. He is a very experienced coach and former First-Class cricketer. He has been a valuable servant of Pakistani cricket. He keeps an eye on me and I’m grateful to him that he holds such views regarding me and my career. Whenever I do get a chance to prove my worth [with the national side], I will not let him down.
PP: You are vying for a spot in the Habib Bank Limited team with the experienced Humayun Farhat. That must be challenging for you?
Jamal Anwar: I am really enjoying the competition. He is a very experienced wicketkeeper and I have the opportunity to learn a lot from him. He passes tips on to me and as a result, I have been able to remove some small errors from my wicketkeeping that I used to make.
Humayun’s experience is what I’m benefiting from and I enjoy watching him play. Even at his age, he is one of the best wicketkeepers in Pakistan. He has been performing very well on a consistent basis. Watching him play, gives me the belief that if you work hard, it will pay dividends.
PP: What are your thoughts on Umar Akmal, who despite not keeping wickets in domestic cricket is Pakistan’s limited overs wicketkeeper?
Jamal Anwar: Players are given the responsibility [by management] and they must respond. Umar Akmal is a very talented player and has been given the opportunity to keep wickets for Pakistan. He has shown guts and determination and has had positive results with the gloves. I still feel he should keep wickets consistently in domestic cricket as well, if he is to become a regular wicketkeeper for Pakistan. He has done his job very well and has proved to be a more than useful wicketkeeper for the national side in limited overs cricket.
PP: Do you think wicketkeepers are born, or is it a skill that can be learnt?
Jamal Anwar: It depends on the specific player, it’s not a given either way. Some players are naturally gifted in the skill of wicketkeeping, whilst the others are turned into wicket-keepers after working hard with the gloves. In my case, I did work hard, but wicketkeeping came naturally to me. The hard work enhanced and evolved my skills. Having a natural flair for wicketkeeping is seen as being important because it’s already such a tough job and being a natural helps with that.
PP: Is keeping wickets to spinners tougher than keeping wickets to quick bowlers?
Jamal Anwar: I think wicketkeeping against spinners is more testing. The real skill of a wicketkeeper is most evident when you see him keeping wickets to a spinner. The main issue when keeping to a spinner is the reduced distance in comparison to a fast bowler, as you are standing up close to the stumps when a spinner is bowling. Due to this, it’s difficult for a wicketkeeper to judge which way and how the ball will be moving before it reaches him. So, I would say it’s harder to keep wickets to a spinner than to a pacer. The spin attack of Pakistan must be one of the most difficult to keep wickets to!
PP: You are still young, but at what age do you think a wicketkeeper reaches his peak?
Jamal Anwar: It depends on the individual athlete. There is no set age to determine the peak of a wicketkeeper. If you don’t lose hope and if you are fit enough, you can keep wickets easily even after 30 years of age. Fitness is the main issue with wicketkeeping. One has to be super fit to become a wicketkeeper, but there is no age limit.
PP: What are your thoughts on being viewed as a Twenty20 specialist?
Jamal Anwar: I am considered a better limited overs wicket-keeper because my batting average in the shorter formats is much higher than the longer format. I myself feel I am capable enough in the longer formats, but my statistics do show otherwise, so I am thought of as a limited overs wicketkeeper. I will try to prove myself in the longer version as well by working hard. I am keeping very well and have over 200 dismissals [in First-Class cricket] to my name now. I just have to prove myself by playing some big innings and by scoring runs in four-day matches.
PP: As a wicketkeeper, how difficult is it to put aside any mistakes you’ve made and remain focused?
Jamal Anwar: It’s very difficult as you are the backbone of the side and the entire team is depending on you. Wicketkeeping is a thankless job and if unfortunately you commit an error at a crucial moment, right away you come into the spotlight and all the players start glaring at you. At that time, your hard work is tested and your self-motivation is examined. If you are unable to get over it, you can’t move forward. Humans do make errors, keepers do drop catches, but one has to be professional enough to overcome all this and rise up again. This is a part and parcel of life.
PP: There seems to be a shortage of wicketkeepers who bat well in Pakistan. Why do you think that is?
Jamal Anwar: To be honest with you, in the longer version I am fine with any wicketkeeper who bats at number seven and can score 40-50 runs for the team. If we look at Kumar Sangakkara, Adam Gilchrist and MS Dhoni, they are wonder boys and special talents. Don’t compare anyone else with them. Everyone has their own special skill or strong point.
If a wicketkeeper is doing well with the gloves and has a good batting technique, then he should be preferred over a batsman who can handle the gloves a little bit. In the longer version of the game, the role of a specialist wicketkeeper is very important. In my opinion, in the shorter formats you can manage with a makeshift wicketkeeper, but using the same tactics in the longer formats will cause problems.
PP: Who is your favourite current keeper-batsman in international cricket?
Jamal Anwar: Kumar Sangakkara. He is very experienced and an exceptional wicketkeeper. He’s an inspiration. The way he has performed with the bat is commendable. Rashid Latif, Mark Boucher and Adam Gilchrist have also proven themselves on the international circuit and one can look up to them and learn from them. Currently, Sangakkara is my favourite. I also like Dhoni, as he’s a real fighter.
PP: Rawalpindi doesn’t seem to be producing the standard of cricketers it did previously. Why do you think that is?
Jamal Anwar: That’s not the case. Rawalpindi and Islamabad are still producing some very fine cricketers. The major setback is that there is no international cricket here in Pakistan and young players are suffering. We play all our matches away, so youngsters are not tested.
It’s difficult to introduce fresh blood as there are fewer vacancies. The seniors are relied upon and Pakistan is doing well with them. Our region is still producing capable players like Umar Waheed, Mohammad Nawaz and Hammad Azam. Hammad scored 87 and 106 just recently against Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL). Umar Amin also scored 70 plus runs in his last domestic innings. Players are doing their best and it’s up to the selectors now to pick them.
PP: Have you set yourself any targets for this domestic season?
Jamal Anwar: Being a professional, there are obviously goals set for every season. If that goal is achieved we are happy but if it’s not, there naturally is disappointment. Then the focus is on working hard and we brainstorm to find the reasons behind not achieving that set goal. Next season, we try to rectify the errors and try to limit them. This is my fifth or sixth season playing First-Class cricket and my main aim is to be named the best wicketkeeper this year. Every domestic player has a dream of representing Pakistan, so I try my best to attract the selectors attention with my performance, with the gloves and the bat. I will continue to try and do my best and will leave the rest to Allah.
(Saj Sadiq is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net, from where the above article has been reproduced. He can be followed on Twitter at @Saj_PakPassion)