Mohammad Abbas, arguably Pakistan’s leading pacer in Test cricket, shed light on his days of struggle before reaching the international level in an exclusive interview with The Telegraph.
He said, “My life before cricket was very challenging but those struggles helped me in cricket because when I came into the sport I had become mature enough to deal with the problems…after the welding and leather factory, I was an office boy in a court, registering documents for cases related to property.”
“When I was working at the court I got selected for district under-19 cricket. They asked me to choose between job or cricket. I cannot forget that night. But a friend, who was a lawyer too, made a case of doing both things together,” he added.
If that was one sliding doors moment, the other came when he came to play in that under-19 tournament. “The team had to choose between me and the secretary’s son, and the decision was made through a toss,” he revealed. “It went in my favour and I got five wickets. After that I got into the region’s academy and there was no stopping after that.”
Abbas quickly outgrew his village side, and was duly called up by Sialkot, where he shared a dressing room with Mohammad Asif. His influence was vital.
“I played Grade II cricket for two years with Asif – we used to discuss things a lot, about how to bowl and where to bowl. I feel like I learnt bowling from him. People like him, Glenn McGrath, Shaun Pollock, James Anderson – they are my ideal bowlers. I like their lines and lengths.”
“I know my strengths that’s why I try to bowl from wicket to wicket,” he said. “I try to make batsmen play the ball as much as possible. When you bowl long spells, you get to learn about the weaknesses of batsmen.”
“It is not that I have suddenly got into the team – I have been playing first-class cricket for nine years, so I know what to do,” he said. “The Tests in the West Indies and UAE were played on slow wickets but here in England you have got to bowl according to the weather and pitches. On the grounds where you find swing you need up pitch the ball up and where the pitches are slow you got to drag back your length.”
“That is the challenge – to continue the performance in Leeds,” Abbas said. “I compete with myself in every match, trying to get better, trying to make us win matches. I want to be better than we were at Lord’s.”
Abbas took nine wickets against England at Lord’s and was crowned the Man of the Match after the green shirts’ remarkable victory.