‘I have learnt a lot from my past mistakes’

Regarded as one of the best batting prospects in Pakistan since his First-Class debut in November 2007, Umar Amin made his Test debut against Australia at Lord’s in 2010 and played four Test matches during that tour. Whilst he is yet to feature in any further Test matches since that tour, Umar Amin has played 15 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and 10 T20Is with varying amounts of success. Although he is yet to cement a place in the Pakistan team, he has been touted as a future Test and ODI captain and put in some excellent batting performances in the recently concluded Pakistan A tour of Sri Lanka.

In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, 25-year-old Amin spoke about the reasons behind the slow pace of progress of his international career, the move from Port Qasim Authority to Sui Southern Gas, his desire to play at a consistent batting position and his determination to move ahead with his career.

Excerpts from an interview:
PakPassion (PP): You had a promising start to your international career in 2010 but seem to have lost your way a bit. What do you feel is the reason for that?

Umar Amin (UA): There is no one else to blame but myself for the way things have turned out for me. It’s best for me to look at my own game and concentrate on the areas that I am weak in with a view to improving myself. It obviously did not help my situation as I only played international cricket in patches. I stayed with the team regularly for about a year in total and played about ten matches which isn’t that many games in itself. The problem with sitting out games is that it affects your confidence as you simply don’t get the continuity that you need to improve your game. If you look at my statistics alone, then they will appear to be pretty miserable as they show me averaging about nineteen in fifteen ODI games. However, when you consider the fact that I have played these games over a period of five years, you start to get an idea of what I am talking about. What you don’t see in these statistics is the fact that I had to go back into domestic cricket and compete hard with others to get back into the reckoning for the international side and then be asked to sit out of games. These type of disruptions to your career matter a lot and I do feel that a longer run in the team would have been more beneficial for me.

PP: You make an excellent point about the effect on your career from the lack of continuity. Was this very disheartening in your case?

UA: If a player after being selected for a series is not assured of a place in the team as in you find out on the day of the game that you are playing, then your mindset is completely different from a player who knows he will be playing all games in the series. Yes, as a professional you should be prepared to face such situations. However, if you are assured of a place in four or five games in the series and are told that you will bat at the same position then your mental approach and batting style is completely different. If you look at my career where I have played 10 T20Is, you will note that there were four occasions where I did not get an opportunity to bat. I am a batsman who usually bats as an opener or at the No 3 position and I was put in a batting position where I couldn’t get a chance to bat. This pretty much explains what I mean about consistency and continuity. In fact, if you examine my ODI career, you will see that I have batted in almost all positions from opener to No 7.

PP: Do you believe that chopping and changing the team in this way has a negative effect on players?

UA: If you arrive at the ground and you are told that you will be playing in a different position than what you are used to, then you will be totally confused and that will affect your performance. For instance, if you are told beforehand that you are to open the innings, then you will plan your innings whilst taking into account the opposition’s opening bowlers’ strengths and weaknesses. If the bowler’s inswing is good then you plan your innings accordingly and if his outswing is better, then you think of other tactics. You cannot be in a good state of mind if you are not sure about which position you will bat at next morning. I am saying this because it’s probably better to admit to this problem with clarity instead of sugar-coating it as this is an important factor to be considered.

PP: The recently-concluded tour of Sri Lanka with the A team where you were one of the leading run scorers in the 4 day games must have given your confidence a real boost?

UA: Yes, it was amazing, but once again I stress that the real reason behind my success was that I always played at the same position during these four-day games. I knew that I had been assured of the same batting position during these three matches and I planned my innings accordingly. My shot selection was based upon my batting position as were my tactics against opposition bowlers.

PP: It would appear that your performances on the A tour of Sri Lanka seemed to have had no effect on the selectors for their choice of players for the senior tour of Sri Lanka?

UA: As far as I am concerned, my job is to work on my own game and performances and leave the selectors to do their own job. I am working on overcoming technical flaws in my batting and improving my fitness but above all, I am looking to bring some consistency to my performances. That’s all I am aiming for. If the selectors then feel that I have reached a stage where they are happy with my performances then they will select me for the national squad.

PP: Are there any specific areas of improvement that you are focusing on?

UA: One area of focus for me is to try and bat at a consistent position in the team. As you know, the technique and mental make-up of an opener is completely different from that of a number seven batsman. Each batting position is totally different and requires a different preparation. Apart from that, I am constantly discussing other minor technical issues such as feet movement etc with my coaches. In that regard, Rashid Latif has been very helpful and I am also checking my own video footage to look for improvements. Overall, I am feeling very good about my form and consistency in terms of performances. The last season was excellent for me as I did well in four day cricket and performed well in the One-Days for the departments, followed by the Pentangular tournament where I scored two centuries. When I was given a chance to play on the A tour of Sri Lanka, I scored 99 and 127 in two of the unofficial Test matches. I definitely feel that I have more consistency in my game now. There is more maturity in my batting and I feel that I understand how to handle different kinds of game pressures and how to adapt to different situations.

PP: Tell us about your move from Port Qasim Authority (PQA) to Sui Southern Gas Corporation (SSGC) team. What were the reasons behind this move?

UA: To be honest, this was a tough decision for me. I was well settled at PQA and I had some great support from Rashid Latif. What made me change my mind was that the offer from SSGC was very attractive and it’s a young team. The team will be led by Shoaib Malik and consists of guys who are willing to give their all for the team. This will obviously have a positive effect on my game as well as I will also be able to raise my game to that level. These are some of the factors that influenced my decision and so far, I am very happy with this move.

PP: Given that batting positions three to seven are well settled in the Pakistan Test team, have you considered taking on the role of an opener in all three formats of the game?

UA: If you look at my career so far, you will note that I used to open for my regional team at the Under- 19 level. So I started playing cricket as an opener. During the Under-19 selection process, three openers were chosen for Pakistan. These were Ahmed Shehzad, Shan Masood and myself. I was asked to sacrifice my slot to accommodate the other two as openers and was told to bat at number three which in real terms is not too different from playing as an opener but I made that change. Also note that of my eleven First-Class hundreds, six or seven have been scored as an opener. In fact, the score of 76 I recently made for SSGC in the recently concluded T20 Ramzan-ul-Mubarak Cup was scored with me playing as an opener.

PP: Are you intending to open in the upcoming season in the four day and One-Day games?

UA: Let’s see how this goes as ultimately, it’s down to the team management. When I was asked by them, I indicated my preference for the opening slot. Once the squads for the four day and One-Day games are finalized, the management will take a decision based upon their strategy. Most likely I will open in these games but if this is not possible, then I will be batting at number three.

PP: Given the inconsistency of our Test openers, do you feel that there is a possibility that you could be considered for this position?

UA: I made a sacrifice when I gave up my opening slot at the Under-19 level. I have learnt a lot from my past mistakes and my aim is to not to make the same mistakes any more. I have made up my mind, and this I have put in to practice from the A tour with Sri Lanka, that I will pursue a course of action which is beneficial to my career alone and hopefully this will see me progress further.

PP: A few months ago, your name was being touted as the future Test and ODI captain, but things have changed so quickly. How do you feel about that?

UA: From being talked about as captain of the team to being left out of the squad is a major shock and setback for me. I never gave it any serious thought and I told the media that my main focus was on my performance alone. I never gave captaincy any serious thought or currently hold aspirations of becoming captain. All I want is to raise my performance to a level that I become a permanent member of the Pakistan team. The decision to award the captaincy is with the PCB and when or if the time comes, I will give it serious thought but for the moment, this is not foremost in my mind.

PP: There seems to be a real determination in your voice and what you are saying?

UA: I have said this before and will say it again. Like everyone else, I have made mistakes in my life which I have learnt from and will not repeat again. I have matured a lot and there is determination in me to move forward and I am totally focused on my career. I think my best cricketing days are ahead of me and I am very determined to ensure that I do not let my career and hopes just drift away.
(Saj Sadiq is Senior Editor at PakPassion where the above article first appeared. He can be followed on Twitter at @Saj_PakPassion)

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