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By Saj Sadiq
Regarded as one of the most talented young left-handed opening batsmen from Pakistan at the moment, Nasir Jamshed made his international debut against Zimbabwe in an One-Day International (ODI) in 2008, smashing 61 off just 48 deliveries which saw him being awarded the Man of the Match award. In his second ODI, he hit 74 off 64 balls, becoming only the Pakistani to make consecutive half-centuries in his first and second ODIs.
A memorable first ODI century against India in the Asia Cup in March 2012, followed by back-to-back hundreds against the same opposition in India raised hopes of a long and fruitful career. But subsequent failures with the bat in his debut Test series against South Africa as well as lacklustre performances in the Champions Trophy, ODI series against West Indies, Zimbabwe and South Africa in 2013 proved to be a major setback to his career. Eventually, a Test average of 12.75 in two Test matches and an ODI average of 34.57 (43 matches), coupled with a Twenty20 International (T20I) average of 21.35 (18 matches) saw his fall from the grace, resulting in him being sidelined for the Asia Cup and the World T20 tournaments.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, the 24 year old Jamshed spoke about his career so far, addressed criticism of his levels of fitness, his views on the road map to return to the team and also his relationship with the former Pakistani head coach, Dav Whatmore.
Excerpts from an interview:
PakPassion.net (PP): What does it mean to you to play cricket for your country?
Nasir Jamshed (NJ): My aim is always to do my best for Pakistan and to contribute to the team effort in any way I can, whether that be with the bat or in the field. I always look to be positive and of course I am someone with a very positive attitude and look to play my cricket in a way that I can be proud of.
I appreciate that when I play for Pakistan it’s an honour and something that millions around the world would want to do. So, I always want to ensure that I am doing my utmost for the team.
PP: Just over a year ago, you scored back-to-back ODI hundreds against India. Tell us about those wonderful innings at Chennai and Kolkata?
NJ: Playing against India is always special and doing well and making runs against them is also very special. It means a lot for the players to perform well against India. Those are also special matches for the fans too and as a player, they are matches you want to exceed in.
Our fans tend to forgive our not so good performances if you do well against India. Friends and family want you to ensure that you defeat the arch-rivals, so it was special to make those back-to-back hundreds against India. I went into both matches with a positive attitude, confident and feeling good about my batting. Half the battle of doing well in international cricket is ensuring you are mentally focused and I was for those matches.
I was delighted after [essaying] those back-to-back hundreds, they meant a lot to me and made me feel that I belonged to international cricket. The atmosphere during those matches was electric and it’s always special to play in India. So, making those hundreds really meant a lot to me.
PP: What is the story about Yuvraj Singh making a comment about you after you had done well against India?
NJ: Yes, we had a good laugh. Yuvraj came up to me after the Kolkata ODI and said, come on give us a break, you always score runs against India. I said to him, it’s not just about making runs against India, the way I feel at the moment, I could make runs against anyone!
PP: What do you feel has gone wrong with your batting? A run of poor scores has seen you being dropped from the Pakistan side.
NJ: The honest answer is that I started to concentrate too much on improving my fitness instead of my batting. I should have continued to build on my good form against Australia and India and continued to improve my batting, but the over-eagerness to improve my fitness hindered my batting. I should have balanced things out, but I became too focused on reducing my weight.
However, you learn from your mistakes, life is all about learning from your errors and ensuring you don’t repeat those mistakes, and I’ve learnt a few harsh lessons recently.
PP: Surely, the problems with your batting weren’t just to do with concentrating too much on your fitness, were they?
NJ: There were no mental issues or major technical problems with my batting in my opinion. There is always work to do on your batting, there are always minor adjustments to be made, but my downfall has been because of too much focus on improving my fitness. I was probably spending too much time trying to get fitter instead of continuing to work on my batting.
Lots of people were saying to me, lose weight and you will feel fitter and your batting will improve. People were saying to me lose weight and your reflexes and hand-eye coordination will get better. However it backfired, I lost weight, but my batting suffered.
Having gone through poor form, I’ve gone back to my previous diet and I’m feeling a lot healthier, stronger and fitter. Losing weight was good, it wasn’t entirely negative, but I think it had an adverse effect on my batting. I’ve returned to my previous diet and fitness and training regime and I’ll be back to my best very soon.
PP: What were the guidelines regarding losing weight? Were you given a target weight to achieve by the fitness trainers?
NJ: On television I appear to look heavier and bigger than what I actually am. Some of my friends were saying to me you need to lose weight as you look unfit, but then, others were saying you look heavier on television than you actually are.
I decided that in order to look better on television, I would shed some weight, but ultimately it has affected my batting.
PP: What do you feel you need to achieve to get back wearing the Pakistan shirt once again?
NJ: There’s no domestic cricket in Pakistan at the moment, so that‘s a problem in itself. However, I’m training at the [Pakistan] National Academy on a regular basis with the coaches and I’m looking out for opportunities at leagues around the world like the Caribbean Premier League [CPL]. If a chance presents itself to play in one of the leagues around the world then I’ll definitely be up for that.
PP: What do you feel you learnt from working with Whatmore and do you feel your game improved during his tenure?
NJ: Dav [Whatmore] is a very nice man, he was a good coach and he taught all of us well during his tenure. He spoke well and gave us all good advice on technical aspects of the game as well as general cricketing advice.
In terms of improvement of my batting, there was limited opportunity to work with him really. He was with us on tours but most of the time I would be working at the National Academy with Mansoor Rana, Ali Zia and Shahid Aslam, all coaches who I’ve worked with since my Under-19 days.
PP: Do you think there were communication issues with the non-Pakistani coaches?
NJ: No, absolutely not. If we ever didn’t understand what Dav or Julien [Fountain] were saying to us then there was always another coach or senior player there to translate. The likes of Shahid Aslam and Misbah-ul Haq could always help, if there were any communication issues.
I know some people have tried to make an issue out of the language barrier, but it was not a problem at all for any of us.
PP: Do you think it’s a wise move by the Pakistan Cricket Board [PCB] to appoint a batting consultant?
NJ: I strongly believe that a batting coach should be with the team on a full time basis. Sometimes, you can be making an error that you don’t realise yourself, but if a batting coach is with the team then, he can spot that issue and help you rectify it.
Sometimes it needs an expert in the art of batting to identify a technical flaw and I think it’s a good move to appoint a bating consultant. The batting consultant or coach can provide advice and be that guide and help that sometimes you need as a batsman. Your mind can occasionally become so cluttered when you are struggling for form that you need a helping hand.
If the team can have a bowling coach with it, then why not also have a batting coach?
PP: There’s a theory that cricketers in Pakistan are generally poor fielders. Why do you think that is?
NJ: Cricketers in Pakistan are very focused on their fielding. We take it very seriously. However, some of the outfields in Pakistan domestic cricket are nothing but dangerous. If you dive on some of those outfields, you are going to end up with a very serious injury and I guarantee you that you won’t get out of bed for at least two days.
Recently in the Faysal Bank T20 tournament in Rawalpindi I dived on one of the outfields and I couldn’t move my arm for two days. There’s a reluctance to dive on such outfields by Pakistani cricketers and I think that affects the standard of the fielders that we produce as most are scared to dive in case they end up missing the next few matches due to injury.
PP: You were pictured in deep conversation with Hashim Amla. Can you share with us what was being discussed?
NJ: I was asking Hashim [Amla] for some tips and advice on my batting as I was struggling. He said to me that if you are out in the middle you will score runs, nobody has made a hundred sat in the pavilion, so stop throwing your wicket away. Amla added that I should put a bigger price on my wicket and not to throw away good starts. He enforced the fact that I should be more patient at the crease and not to play rash strokes that were leading to my dismissals. Amla further added that I should look [bat] to be at the crease for longer periods instead of quickfire innings.
PP: How hard is it sitting at home and watching Pakistan in action in two major tournaments and not being part of the squad to play in Bangladesh?
NJ: There’s no denying the fact that it’s disappointing. Watching your colleagues in action and thinking that you could have been a part of the team isn’t easy for me. Sometimes I get angry with myself, but then I realise that I have to remain positive and work my way back into the team.
I have to realise that there must be flaws in my batting and that’s the reason why I sat outside [dropped] whilst others are being given a chance. The onus is on me to eradicate those flaws and come back into international cricket, a better and complete batsman and to make sure that when I am given another chance in international cricket, I don’t repeat the mistakes I have made this time.
My mindset has to be better, it has to improve and the only person that can ensure that happens is me. It’s easy to blame others, but I am the one to blame for not being a part of the Asia Cup and World Twenty20 squads.
PP: Is the 2015 World Cup a realistic target for you?
NJ: Absolutely. I’m already targeting the World Cup in New Zealand and Australia. However, before that tournament, I’m aiming to play against Australia in the series in the [United Arab Emirates] UAE. But at the end of the day, it’s down to the selectors and the captain on who they select and all I can do is to perform in domestic cricket and club cricket.
Poor form is the reason why I’m out of the international picture and good form is the reason why I will, God willing, be back in international cricket.
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