Sialkot-born Mansoor Amjad — a key member of the 2004 Under-19 team that won the World Cup in Bangladesh — was regarded as the next big hope in Pakistan cricket at one stage. The leg-spinner came through the ranks in Under-15 and Under-19 cricket and was earmarked as a cricketer who had every chance to play for Pakistan on a regular basis in the shorter formats.
The late Bob Woolmer, former Pakistan coach, rated Mansoor Amjad very highly, and that faith was justified when he took five wickets against an England XI at Lahore in 2005-06. He played for Leicestershire in English County cricket in 2007 and made his international debut in a T20 international against Bangladesh at Karachi in 2008 taking three wickets for three runs in a solitary over. But since his T20I debut, Amjad has only featured for Pakistan on one further occasion, the Asia Cup One-Day International, against Sri Lanka in June 2008 where he took one for 44 and was dismissed for five runs.
Nearly five years since his international debut, Amjad is once again knocking on the door of international selection with a number of match-winning performances for Sialkot in the ongoing Faysal Bank One-Day Cup.
Speaking exclusively with PakPassion.net, the 25-year-old Amjad spoke candidly about how his career has developed, how a finger injury hampered his progress and his confidence, and his hopes for another chance in international cricket.
“I played for Pakistan at Under-15 and Under-19 levels and the desire like anyone else who has played for their country at junior levels was to play for my country at the highest level for a long time. Being part of the successful 2004 Under-19 squad in Bangladesh was a fantastic time and yes it would be fair to say that a lot of that group of boys had very high hopes for their individual careers, whilst realising that a lot of hard work lay ahead in order for us to be successful.
“There was never any complacency from me, as some suggest. I knew that there were a number of cricketers with whom I would have to compete for a role in Pakistan’s limited-over teams. Some were established and seasoned cricketers, and others like myself waiting for that opportunity. Looking back, my international chance came went in the blink of an eye. But make no mistake, I’m determined to play again for Pakistan again as I feel there is some unfinished business as far as international cricket is concerned.”
Amjad’s form this season for the Sialkot Stallions, who he is captaining, has been exceptional. In six innings in the One-Day Cup, he has scored over 300 runs at an average of 81.50, including two centuries and one half century. He has also done well with the ball, taking 12 wickets at just over 18 apiece. Whilst being delighted with his current form, Amjad stated that he wasn’t just chasing individual goals but also keen to ensure that Sialkot went on to lift another domestic crown.
“I’m delighted with my form in the ongoing One-Day Cup and really pleased for my team mates that we are through to the semi-finals, where we will face Lahore Lions later this week. I was asked to captain the team for this tournament and I’ve enjoyed the responsibility this has brought. What is really satisfying is that I have been able to put a run of matches and performances together. Domestic cricket has been frustrating, stop-start affair for me in the last few years. I’ve played some matches and then had to drop out due to injury concerns, so yes it’s great that I’m playing on a regular basis. When you are playing on a regular basis, the confidence automatically comes back as does the self-belief and I’m delighted to say that my confidence is back.”
The injury that caused Amjad a lot of discomfort and concerns was a finger injury on his bowling hand. The injury lingered and failed to fully respond to treatment and the all-rounder continued to play cricket despite not being fully fit. However, treatment in the UK whilst playing league cricket last year has resolved the issue and could prove to be the turning point in his career.
“There were good and bad days with the finger injury. Sometimes I would play and it was fine, no pain at all, yet other days I would be in pain and unable to bowl. It was really frustrating and really hampered me, particularly mentally as I never knew when the injury would flair up. I had to opt out of matches sometimes, even whole tournaments due to the pain. Eventually a friend of mine recommended a specialist in the UK and I went to visit him last year whilst playing league cricket in the North of England. He looked at the injury, assessed it and we started a course of treatment. Thankfully the treatment has worked and I’ve had no problems at all with the injury. I’m pain free as far as the finger injury is concerned, bowling without any pain in my hand and feel much more confident and at ease in the middle. It’s the main reason why I feel the one-day cup has gone so well and I hope it continues.”
In the short-term future Amjad feels that the televised One-Day Cup semi-final and possible final as well as the upcoming T20 Super 8s tournament are the ideal platform for Pakistani cricketers to impress the selectors and perhaps gain inclusion for tournaments such as the Champions Trophy in England. Whilst in the long term he hopes that he can become part of the Pakistani one-day and T20 teams on a regular basis.
“The semi-final and final of the One-Day Cup will no doubt be watched closely by the selectors. Also the high profile Super 8s T20 tournament will be played later this month. These matches will present me and the other boys with a fantastic chance to impress the selectors who perhaps are looking to bring in some fresh faces to the Pakistani limited overs squads. We can only perform and hope that the selectors take note of consistent performances. The desire and hunger is there to play international cricket as I strongly believe that I have the skills and the temperament to play at the highest level if given another opportunity.”
The Sialkot Stallions face Lahore Lions in the Faysal Bank One-Day Cup semi-final on Wednesday at the Gaddafi Stadium Lahore.
(Saj Sadiq is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net. He can be followed on Twitter at @Saj_PakPassion)
First Published: March 20, 2013, 8:24 am