Yuvraj Singh might have inspired a number of young kids to swing their bats in a swashbuckling fashion if not take up the game in a professional manner. However, on Saturday, someone who drew inspiration from his left-arm bowling, ended with a maiden five-wicket haul, helping his team earn a vital first-innings lead in their kitty.
For 26-year-old Aamir Aziz, the journey has never been smooth. Having made his debut for Jammu and Kashmir four years back, Aziz had just four first-class games with an equal number of wickets to his name till this season. He wasn’t even a part of the squad when Jammu and Kashmir clinched their historic win over 41-time Ranji champions Mumbai in 2014. When asked about the sorry figures, Aziz had a simple reply: “Luck wasn’t favouring me.”
At the end of day three at the Brabourne Stadium, Aziz, however, can thank his lucky stars for a number of reasons. “He probably wouldn’t have played had Harmeet Singh’s no-objection certificate got cleared. We are yet to get any confirmation regarding Harmeet’s NOC. But if Aziz keeps performing this way, we might have to incorporate both of them in the playing eleven,” coach Abdul Qayoom said. “His morale had gone for a toss after yet another disappointing start to the season. I stuck with him, made him believe of his abilities and worked on his variations.”
Going into the fourth day, Jammu and Kashmir lead by 110 runs with 8 wickets in hand. The game wasn’t always in their favour as gritty knocks from Dwaraka Ravi Teja (81) and AG Pradeep (47) led a brief Andhra fightback. Teja and Ashwin Hebbar (38) had stitched a 94-run partnership before Aziz removed the duo in quick succession. “It’s a flat wicket and wasn’t turning that well. I kept bowling at the right areas and stuck to the line my captain asked me to. To me, the third wicket (Teja) was the most special,” Aziz said.
“Against Goa, he didn’t even get to bowl in the first innings as the team got bundled for a paltry 77. In the second, he did take two wickets but that didn’t help much to boost his morale. He needed a good game to get going and he got that today,” Qayoom said. “He has a lot of potential. Though he has been picked in the side as a bowler, he can contribute with the bat as well. Even in this game, he was promoted up the order.”
Aziz, who has been playing since 2002, preferred batting in his early days. His school coach, however, urged him to take up bowling in a more serious manner and Aziz, doesn’t regret the move. “This (five-for) is my greatest achievement. I haven’t bowled such long spells ever in my life,” said Aziz, who completed his B.Com degree in 2013. “We have our family business in Pondicherry but that has never interested me. Cricket has been my love forever and I only want to focus on my game.”