Matloob Qureshi (above) said his role model is former Pakistan batsman Saeed Anwar © AFP
By Amir Husain
Born in Multan in 1987, Matloob Qureshi was just five years old when a horrible accident near his home resulted in him losing his right arm. Whilst many in his position in Pakistan would have struggled to lead a normal life, let alone take part in sports, Matloob’s love for the game of cricket, inspired by his role model Saeed Anwar, pushed him to greater heights. Rising through the ranks via the club cricket route, he played in the 2008 National Disabled Championships, with his big moment coming later on as he was selected for the Pakistan Disabled Cricket team in 2009. He hasn’t looked back since. Currently part of the Balochistan team, he is a regular member of the squad for the annual Pentangular Tournament which the team has won three times since its inception in 2010. He was Man of the Series during the first disabled series between Pakistan and England in 2012 where he scored 113 not out to further demonstrate his batting prowess.
The 26-year-old was also the star attraction in the recently concluded series against England in Dubai (2014) and in an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, he spoke about his disability and his struggle to become a regular member of the Disabled Cricket team, as well as the issues facing Disabled Cricketers from Pakistan.
Excerpts from an interview:
PakPassion.net (PP): Tell us about the nature of your disability.
Matloob Qureshi (MQ): I lost my right arm at the age of five in an unfortunate accident. This happened in Ghalla Mandi in Multan. I clearly recall that I had just come back from school, eaten lunch and was on my way to play in a nearby field. I was hit by a truck whilst walking by a main road. The force of the impact resulted in the dismembering of my right arm, which caused my disability.
PP: This was obviously a traumatic injury and must have caused you tremendous hardship and pain throughout your childhood. How did the interest in cricket come about? Who was your role model?
MQ: Obviously it wasn’t an easy journey but I was inspired by my favourite player, Saeed Anwar, who was also my role model and someone who I admire. I would love to meet him one day and thank him! In terms of playing the game, I started to play tape ball cricket at the age of eight with friends in alleyways around my house. As I grew older and reached the age of 17, I began going to grounds and played proper cricket there with a leather ball.
I played the first national championship for disabled cricketers in 2008 and then in 2009 my name appeared in the Pakistan Disabled team trials and that’s when I was selected. Also, I would like to say that whenever I played with my friends, I did not receive any special treatment. In fact, even now, I usually play club cricket with able-bodied players in Multan where I have scored seven centuries already, which is more than what I have achieved playing as a disabled cricketer where I have just three!
PP: Tell us about the facilities for disabled cricketers in Pakistan. How are they different from what able bodied cricketers can expect when playing?
MQ: I am pleased to say that from my experience, we as disabled cricketers also get all the facilities that normal First-Class cricketers expect such as traveling and lodging arrangements as well as proper sports clothing. On top of that, we also get to play on good grounds like in Karachi as well as at other venues in Pakistan and we also get a lot of good exposure and help from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). For example, just recently, Mr Subhan Ahmed (COO PCB) attended the fourth Pentangular Championship final as chief guest at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore which is a matter of great satisfaction for us and we are grateful to him for this.
We also have access to the facilities in Karachi where we play at the Rashid Latif Academy, UBL Complex, NBP Sports Complex Stadium and the National Stadium, where we played the final game of the inaugural edition of the Pentangular Cup in 2010.
PP: You mentioned the Pentangular Cup which has been held for four years and is the premier cricket tournament for Disabled Cricketers. How has your team performed in this tournament?
MQ: This is a very important competition for disabled cricketers and the Balochistan team, whom I play for, has won this cup three times in the past in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Whilst Sindh won the 2013 edition of the tournament, I am proud to say that players from my native Multan have been doing extremely well for Balochistan. Players such as Mehdi Hassan, Jahanzaib Tiwana, Umaiz-ur-Rehman and I have shown very good performances in victories from 2010-2013. Also our coordinator in Multan, Jamil Kamran, who also supervises Bahawalpur, deserves a lot of praise for ensuring that the facilities and guidance available to us are of the highest quality possible.
PP: How do you support yourself financially? Have you completed your education and if so, what level have you attained?
MQ: You are right, we have no contracts or sponsorship that brings us a steady income. You need to make money to feed yourself and that is not available from cricket alone. Thanks to the Almighty, I have a small job at the Auqaf Department (Religious Affairs) which helps me meet my requirements. As far as education is concerned, I am proud to say that I have completed my BA, although I wanted to gain a BSc or even an MSc but I really couldn’t devote time as I love playing cricket!
Going back to the topic of employment for disabled cricketers, I would like to say that the Pakistan Disabled Cricket structure is in its infancy and it is like a small plant that will grow and improve slowly over time. So the fact that departments are not hiring us is not a real concern right now. However, I hope that over time, different companies and departments will take interest in our disabled players, so that some of our players can get a job. The future looks bright, and it’s our wish that departments will hire us. Right now all we can do is hope for the best.
PP: What is your most memorable match?
MQ: My most memorable match was the first match in the first ever ODI disability series between Pakistan and England, held in Dubai in 2012. I made 113 not out in that game and this is an innings I will always remember. Even our opponents appreciated that innings and were inspired by my efforts. We won the series 2-1 and I was declared the Man of the Series from Pakistan which was even more pleasing on a personal level.
PP: What kind of hurdles did you have to overcome to play cricket for Pakistan and what message do you have for disabled people wishing to pursue the sport?
MQ: Beyond the obvious ones of battling with my disability, when I first started playing with the leather ball I found It very difficult. It’s not an easy task to middle the ball with one hand and I even broke a few bats in trying to do it! But now I can middle the ball easily regardless of who is bowling to me. I believe in the expression “practice make perfect” and I do practice a lot more than normal guys.
My love for cricket has helped me overcome a lot of hurdles as well as pain, and I have a message for my disabled brothers. It is simply that they shouldn’t just sit back and think about their disability. Instead they should work hard and show the world that they can take on any challenge. If you keep thinking about disabilities you’ll never be successful in anything. Even if you’re physically disabled, be strong mentally and believe in yourself and you can achieve anything!
PP: What kind of support do you get from the PCB and how are they associated with the Pakistan Disabled Cricket Association (PDCA)?
MQ: Yes the PCB obviously helps us as they are the main governing body for cricket in Pakistan. However, the main source of support for disabled cricketers is the PDCA which is associated with the PCB. The PDCA helps in the organisation of various domestic tournaments at national level and looks after about 600 disabled players who play for various clubs around the country. They also formulate laws of the game as disabled cricket is still in its initial years. As far as foreign series are concerned such as the recently concluded one against England, the PCB is responsible for all arrangements of this tournament and they also support us financially.
PP: What is the league structure for disabled cricketers in Pakistan?
MQ: We have a domestic structure but it cannot be classed as a league. We have 12 teams representing 12 different regions, who play for a championship. Then, all the best performers from the championship are selected for the Pentangular Cup. Top performers from the Pentangular Cup are then ultimately selected for Pakistan and this is exactly the same route I have taken to be part of the national Disabled team. I performed well in the National Disabled ODI Championships and then the Pentangular Cup, and then I made it to the National Team.
PP: What steps would you like the government to take to encourage disabled people to play cricket?
MQ: The Government definitely needs to appreciate the amazing work our association, PDCA is doing and help them with more funding so that they can do even more for disabled cricket in Pakistan. Our players need to earn money to feed themselves and their families so at the very least, they need to be provided with jobs. I have said before that we get good facilities at the national level but they really don’t compare with what players from other countries have.
For example there was a huge difference in equipment used by the England Disabled Team and what we use. We saw this during their recent visit to play the T20I and ODI series against us in Dubai. I have to say that, although their equipment was way better than ours, talent-wise our team was on a different level and that is something to be proud of.
PP: What was your impression of the recently concluded series against England? Which England players impressed you?
MQ: It went really well for us. We won the series in both formats with a 2-1 margin. It was a total team effort and everybody performed very well, but I will say that some boys such as Hasnain Alam, Jahanzaib Tiwana, Rao Javed and Danish Ali were outstanding. As far as England are concerned, players such as Leon Thomas, Colin Flynn are very good players and above all, I’ve also become good friends with them.
PP: How important are such tours/series for developing general interest in the activities of disabled cricketers?
MQ: Participating in such series is important for the promotion of our cricket. Hopefully more of our disabled cricketers will be encouraged to take part if they see us winning series like we just did against England. This will also send a clear message to the whole world to show them the amount of effort and hard work our disabled team is putting in. I believe that by taking part in such games we can really make this game popular amongst our people.
PP: Many thanks for your time Matloob. Finally, what message do you have for the people of Pakistan?
MQ: Thank you very much for speaking to me. All I will ask and request the people of Pakistan is to pray for our success and to help us where they can to attain even higher goals.
(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net. The above article is reproduced with permission from http://pakpassion.net/)