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Rigours, resolve and 17 overs on the trot: How Aamir Jamal earned Test spot

  • Aamir Jamal’s video interview is available here which can be used for editorial purposes only
  • Urdu version of the media release is attached here

Karachi, 8 July 2023: “There are no shortcuts in life,” Aamir Jamal tells PCB Digital after his selection in the Pakistan Test side for the tour of Sri Lanka this month. “There is a certain process that one has to go through and it is only after that one truly values his achievements.”

Aamir had a stop-start beginning to his competitive cricket career. He had an impressive inter-regional U19 tournament in 2014 when he took 30 wickets at 16.97 in five matches after which he was named in Pakistan’s squad for an U19 series against Afghanistan in Lahore.

It would take him four years from there to break into first-class cricket with a debut for Pakistan Television in 2018, before he became a regular feature in domestic circuit from the 2020-21 season as he began to turn out for Northern regularly.

Aamir captured the imagination of the entire nation through an immaculate last over when he defended 15 against an in-form Moeen Ali in Lahore to help Pakistan attain 3-2 lead over England in the historic seven-match T20 International series.

Following the series, Aamir, now aspiring for a spot in the Test side, rushed north to join his domestic side in Abbottabad for the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.

“It [getting selected in the Test side] is meaningful for me,” the 27-year-old says. “I was told by the national selectors that a spot is up for grabs in the Test side. I had missed the first two first-class matches of the season because of the T20I series so I went straight to my domestic team without any rest. The head coach (Ijaz Ahmed) gave me the option of resting, but I told him that I wanted to play as much first-class cricket as I could and I wanted to make it to the Test side for the two upcoming series [against England and New Zealand].

“I wanted to finish as the best all-rounder of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and that desire never let me sit out any match despite being provided opportunities to opt out with no consequences on our qualification for the final.”

Though Aamir had to wait a while for this call-up, he went on to finish as the best fast bowler and the second best overall in the tournament and played an integral role in his team securing their maiden first-class title as he took 31 wickets at 29.71 in nine matches and also recorded the best figures of the season. 

“That is one first-class performance that I have enjoyed the most,” Aamir relishes as he recalls 4 November 2022 when he took eight Balochistan wickets in an extraordinary 17-over-long spell at the Abbottabad Cricket Stadium.

“I couldn’t get going in my first spell. When I returned to the attack I bowled 17 overs on the trot. My bowling coach Sami [ullah Niazi] bhai was calling me from the dressing room to stop, but I did not because I had my eyes fixated on a spot in the Test side. I started to bowl really well – I got one wicket, then two, then three and so on. When I got five wickets, Sami bhai told me to rest, but I said, ‘it is now that I have started to enjoy bowling’. I ended up bowling 15 overs and I bowled with uniform pace throughout.

“As I took eight wickets, Sami bhai told me to give ninth scalp a go, so I bowled two more overs. Then Ijaz bhai jumped in and told me to rest as we had more matches ahead of us.”

Aamir finished with eight for 120 as the match ended in a draw.

He recently toured Zimbabwe with Pakistan Shaheens and displayed impressive bowling skills. The right-arm seamer was the leading wicket-taker in the six-match one-day series with 16 scalps at 21 - with a five-wicket haul in the second match – and returned three for 51 and two for 45 in his side’s win in the second first-class match, the only four-day game he played on tour. 

Born in Mianwali, but raised in Islamabad, the Aamir Jamal of today has been shaped by the hardships he had to endure between 2014 and 2018.

“I did not play any substantial cricket for four years after playing U19 in 2014. I only got a few grade-II matches in a couple of seasons. I went to Australia upon being invited by someone who had come to play at our club. He was impressed with my work ethic and offered me a sponsorship. During the season in Australia, I got to know about an upcoming Pakistan U23 tour and I immediately came back as I could not let go of my love for Pakistan.

“I had pinned hopes on making an impact in the upcoming grade-II season, but I was not selected by any side. So I bought a car on bank lease and registered myself with ride-hailing services as I had to run my home. There was not much support from my family either so now I had to earn, to keep my house running, and give time to my training.

“For two years, right after Fajar (dawn) prayers I used to get online and start working. From five until ten-thirty in the morning, when people are going to offices, colleges and universities, I used to have my first shift, after which I bowled for two hours without any rest. After having a bit of food, whatever I could get my hands on, I used to bat and field.

“Around three in the afternoon until seven in the evening, I used to get online for my second shift as that is when offices, schools and colleges are getting off. After seven, I used to take an hour out for gym, following which I used to have my third shift that continued until midnight. Most of the times when I got home everyone used to be asleep.

“This struggle instilled punctuality in me and I started to value things. When you are forced to work hard and earn things, you value them.”

He has been driven by a desire to learn. When Pakistan and Sri Lanka played the first Test in Rawalpindi in 2019, Aamir pushed to be a net bowler so he could closely study the skill level of the players in the national side and bridge the gap between his own abilities and theirs by enhancing his skills. In the recent fast bowling camp at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore, he put in extra overs to ready himself for the challenges he may face in Sri Lanka.

“An all-rounder has a lot of workload and I have always prepared myself keeping that in mind. I never miss a day of training at the NCA, so I continue to give ample time to my bowling and batting.

“Even during the recent fast bowling camp, I put in extra overs to train hard so the conditions don’t pose a challenge for me in Sri Lanka. I consulted senior players on what to expect there and Imam [ul Haq] told me that it is more difficult for fast bowlers in Sri Lanka as compared to others and I need to prepare myself mentally for that as well, because if one gives up mentally, your body stops responding.”

The process has prepared him for the rigours of Test cricket and Aamir has his eyes set on making his Test debut as exciting as the T20I.