By Saj Sadiq
Thirty-two-year-old wicket-keeper Humayun Farhat played his one and only Test match for Pakistan in March 2001 against New Zealand in Hamilton. He was also selected for five One-Day Internationals (ODIs) a month later in the ARY Gold Cup contested between Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand in Sharjah, making his highest international score of 39 in the final.
In domestic cricket he has played more than hundred First-Class and List A matches for Allied Bank, Habib Bank Limited and Lahore, and the Indian Cricket League teams ICL Pakistan XI and Lahore Badshahs, scoring over 8,000 runs in total. Farhat has also taken 563 catches and completed 91 stumpings.
Humayun, brother of Pakistan opener Imran Farhat spoke with PakPassion.net to discuss his brief international career, the standard of first-class cricket in Pakistan, the criticism of his brother, the effect of wicket-keeping on Umar Akmal’s batting and more.
PakPassion.Net (PP): How did you become interested in cricket and what made you want to be a wicketkeeper?
Humayun Farhat (HF): My brother and I used to go along with our father to the Fazal Mahmood training camp at the Bagh-e-Jinnah ground in Lahore, where my father used to train Ashraf Ali and Ashraf was the one who got me interested in wicketkeeping. I watched him keep wicket and started to keep wicket myself.
I used to study in DPS (Divisional Public School) in Lahore, where there were about 15 school athletes and we used to represent our school in all the sports. I played baseball, hockey and badminton at national level. I was the Under-14 national champion in badminton as well, but later I decided to choose cricket as my profession rather than badminton.
PP: Are there any cricketing role models of yours and why were they your role models?
HF: I don’t have many role models to be honest, but I really admired Fazal. Although I never saw him play cricket, I was inspired by his personality. Even at that age, he was very disciplined and respected; we used to go to his home and have breakfast. Before any tour, we used to meet him and we learned a lot of things from him. He was someone who we looked up to when we were young.
PP: You have played just one Test and five One-Day Internationals (ODI) for Pakistan, are you disappointed with that?
HF: Obviously there is disappointment and so there should be. In the last ODI that I played, I scored 39 runs and after that, I never got a chance to prove myself again. I should have represented Pakistan for a longer period of time but unfortunately, it’s too late now. My sole focus is now to play for Habib Bank Limited (HBL), it is everything for me. Abdul Raqeeb who is head of the sports department at HBL supports us a lot and I will play for this bank for as long as I am capable enough to do so.
PP: You made 54 runs in two innings in two very low scoring innings for Pakistan against New Zealand. Don’t you feel you deserved more chances in Test cricket?
HF: I still remember that Test match very well. The pitch was very grassy, but I managed to score 28 and 26 in each innings of that low-scoring match. Basically, I got the chance to play as Moin Khan was injured but I feel I should have got more chances in future as well. After that match, both Moin Khan and Rashid Latif played two matches each and then Kamran Akmal was included in the side.
I remained Pakistan’s best wicketkeeper at domestic level, but didn’t get a chance to play for Pakistan again. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s system has never been fair. There is a lot of player power involved and unless it is eradicated, we can never succeed. We will not be able to discover talent either.
PP: Are there any regrets about joining the Indian Cricket League (ICL) and do you think it ultimately was detrimental to your career?
HF: No, not at all. I started playing in the ICL when it was already too late. I don’t think it would be fair to say that it dented my playing career in any way. There is no regret at all. As professionals, we have to earn a living and if we are not called-up to represent our country, we will play in such leagues. Country is the first and foremost priority, but every player plays in these types of leagues and I was no exception.
PP: Do you think the ICL was free from corruption?
HF: There was no corruption in the ICL at all. We were paid so much that there was no need for any corruption. We were paid almost the same amount of money in one year which we earn here by playing in Pakistan for ten years, so what was the point of corruption and why would we or any other team do it?
PP: You’ve played First-Class cricket in Pakistan for 15 years. Do you think the standard is better now than when you started?
HF: No, the standard is much worse now. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has to introduce the system they had in the past, in which department cricket was separate and the association’s players used to play for departments as well. Until and unless that system is in place, we can never learn and there will be no new talent in Pakistan. When department’s players used to play with us, we got to learn from them but that’s not the case now.
PP: What about the standard of cricketers playing in domestic cricket? Do you think domestic cricket is producing players capable of succeeding in international cricket?
HF: There is no talent to be frank. These days, a player scores a century in less than two sessions, but his team ends up with just 190 on the board. In the past, about ten years back, players used to take a full day and even more to score a century and the team used to register over 250 on the board. These players who love to slog the ball cannot play the longer format. They are only good for the T20 format and nothing else.
PP: What changes do you think the PCB should make in domestic cricket?
HF: The main priority of the PCB should be to put more money into domestic cricket. A player used to earn about Rs30-35 lakhs after one season and if that’s not possible, he should at least earn Rs 15-20 lakhs. When a player is earning that amount of money, he will never look abroad to play in other leagues. He will use that money to good effect by hiring a trainer and by staying fit for that will be the only way he will earn money.
If you won’t invest, how will you discover talent in the country? The prize money for the biggest tournament in Pakistan, the President’s Cup, is just Rs 4 lakhs. Had I been the PCB chairman, I would have introduced the previous rule in which department players played in associations and there was healthy competition in our cricket. Now, no team wants to come and play here. Also every domestic match should be televised and you will see that we will discover new talent.
PP: As Imran’s brother, what do you make of the criticism he receives and do you think it’s unfair?
HF: He gets criticised for no reason which is very unfair. Let him retire first and then I will sit on TV and reveal the truth in front of everyone. Initially, he faced many hardships due to me as Mohammad Yousuf had differences with me and now he is doing the talking on television.
Shoaib Malik also had some problems with me so he and many others disturbed Imran Farhat a lot. When he was selected to play for Pakistan, he was not allowed to practice in the nets and just five minutes before the match he was told that he was playing in it!
His father-in-law, Mohammad Ilyas, has not benefited him in any way. In fact, he has dented my brother’s career. Imran has always played for Pakistan on merit and Ilyas has nothing to do with it. He has performed over the years and it was in his destiny that he would play for Pakistan. He had the talent and he proved it by scoring runs. Last time he played for Pakistan was on the back of his triple century in domestic cricket and he scored 70 runs in his last Test innings. Imran’s wife was unwell and that’s why he had to withdraw from the Zimbabwe tour. Shahid Afridi didn’t play the last ODI against Sri Lanka because of his ailing daughter, so Imran also deserves another chance to play for Pakistan. He had a genuine reason.
PP: Do you think playing a makeshift wicketkeeper like Umar Akmal in ODIs and T20Is is the correct move? Don’t you think playing him as a keeper could be detrimental to his career?
HF: I feel Umar Akmal is a regular wicketkeeper now. As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of influence of player power in our country and talent is taken for granted here. This issue needs to be rectified. It’s unfair on Umar Akmal and I feel that he bats too low and needs to come higher up the order. He is the best wicketkeeper in Pakistan right now and wicketkeeping has had no effect on his batting. It’s just his batting position which prevents him from scoring big runs. Pakistan has got an excellent player in Umar Akmal and modern-day cricket demands a player like him. He is a very talented player.
PP: Pakistan seem to be struggling to produce a wicketkeeper-batsman who can make big scores in Test cricket. Why do you think that is?
HF: There have not been many Pakistani wicketkeepers who have regularly scored heavily. Only Kamran Akmal used to score runs. In the past, Moin Khan scored four Test centuries in his whole career while Rashid Latif only scored one. There is no other wicketkeeper in our domestic cricket who is capable of making big scores in Test cricket.
Adnan Akmal is the best wicketkeeper in Pakistan for Test matches. He can be groomed and can represent Pakistan in the limited over formats as well, so I see him having a bright future. These days, some teams have different wicketkeepers for Tests, ODIs and T20Is, but if Adnan Akmal works hard, he can play in all formats.
PP: What are your thoughts on Sarfraz Ahmed and what he needs to improve upon?
HF: He has been given far too many chances to prove himself but he has not performed with the bat at all. He has lots of flaws. No matter how well you do in domestic cricket, you have to perform at international level to cement your place in the side. Even as a keeper, he has not done very well. In our current team Umar Akmal and Adnan Akmal are the best choices.
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