There’s something about Azeem Ghumman. Built like a boxer and keen to make a mark, he’s the kind of cricketer for whom this under-19 World Cup is but a gentle stop.
Ghumman has chosen his career path quite carefully. “I play for a team where there are no stars, no big players,” he said, speaking of the domestic team he plays for. “That way I get more opportunities.”
What he does not reveal as lightly is that he once scored 326 not out in a day’s play in an inter-district match. He also snapped up five catches under the helmet on debut and remembers playing against National Bank’s Mohammad Asif, Mohammed Aamer and Wahab Riyaz.
But Ghumman knows all his effort could go to waste when he plays India. “The entire population of Pakistan and some billion Indians are following the game,” he said. “It is different, but it’s not a fight or war.”
Ghumman, whose biceps intimidate even the casual observer, explains why he will always be a Tendulkar fan. “He’s been playing for 21 years and owns every batting record there is. Still, he approaches each match like he’s a kid. That’s what makes him a legend, his respect for the game.”
If he looks like an Akmal, he must be one. Pakistan’s big batting hope, Babar Azam, in an interesting character. When he was a little boy he wandered to the nets to watch his Akmal cousins. “I always wanted to be like Umar,” he said, categorically, even though Kamran Akmal was the Pakistan player to look up to.
Azam knows the game. “We’ve been talking about playing in these conditions. The basics are to leave the ball alone if it’s wide, and not play the cut or pull early in the innings.”