One of the most naturally talented batsmen Pakistan has produced in the recent past, Imran Nazir broke onto the international stage with gusto with some impressive and swashbuckling stroke-play all round the wicket at the tender age of 17. His attacking flair however was also his shortcoming and he was soon found out by more experienced bowlers. He was soon upstaged by the likes of Mohammad Hafeez, Yasir Hameed, Taufeeq Umar and Salman Butt. Since then he has become somewhat an outcast, with few appearances in the Pakistani colours. His last innings being a T20 against England in 2010, where his only contribution was a boundary first ball he faced and out the next.
In an exclusive interview with Interviewer, Nazir spoke of his career achievements, his experience in the Bangladesh Premier League, his opinion on which format of the game he can succeed in, and his desire for a return to the national team.
Interviewer: You made your international debut at the age of only 17. Looking back now do you feel that was too young and you weren’t quite ready for the rigours of international cricket?
Imran Nazir: Yes absolutely 17 was an amazing age to make my international debut. However I have always had faith in my ability and talent. I believe I have had a God given cricketing talent and even then at the age of 17 I was confident that I could perform on the world stage against the best opposition.
I was immature back then in terms of cricket and it was simply a case of just relying upon my natural ability. My aim at the start of my international career was to just go out there enjoy myself and hit the ball as hard as I could. Technique, planning, tactics weren’t issues that I felt I needed to worry about.
Interviewer: Your critics feel that your batting has not matured and that you still lack tactical and technical awareness. What would you say in response to this criticism?
Imran Nazir: I disagree. I feel that I am a far more mature and complete batsman these days. I’ve been playing cricket at the highest level now for over 13 years and I am of the opinion that my technique has improved and that my all round awareness of cricket has improved greatly.
I feel that I am more aware of targeting certain opposition bowlers and have improved my approach to batting in the various formats, rather than playing the same way in all three formats.
Interviewer: You made 64 in your first Test innings against Sri Lanka in Lahore, tell us about that innings and the experience of making your Test debut at 17?
Imran Nazir: I was honoured that I was presented with an opportunity at the age of 17, an opportunity to play for my country, an opportunity that billions of people around the world crave for. I made a fluent 64 from 87 balls and I felt Test cricket was where I belonged. I had no idea that I would only go on and play only 8 Test matches for Pakistan.
Interviewer: Why do you think you only went onto play 8 Test matches despite such a promising start?
Imran Nazir: Well it wasn’t just the first innings, I also made 2 Test centuries in the 8 Tests that I played in. Admittedly things did not go as well as I would have hoped, but to be labelled as someone who could not play Test cricket so early in my career was harsh and incorrect. I was discarded from Test cricket after only 3 and a half years at the age of 20 which is hard to stomach.
I have always felt and still feel that I am a batsman who can play in all three formats and be a success in all three formats. The rest is down to the Almighty and I guess it wasn’t in my fate to play Test cricket regularly.
Interviewer: Which do you feel was your best international innings, the one that you remember with the fondest memories?
Imran Nazir: I think my career-best innings was the 131 that I made against the West Indies in Bridgetown in May 2000. The West Indies had Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose in their bowling line up and my innings enabled Pakistan to draw the match after a first innings deficit of 145.
Interviewer: You’ve faced a lot of excellent bowlers in your career, but who do you think is the best bowler that you have batted against?
Imran Nazir: That’s a difficult question. I’ve faced legendary bowlers in my career and it’s been an honour to be batting against the likes of Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie. In Pakistan there were of course Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar, all of the aforementioned were greats and deserve the utmost respect.
Interviewer: You have featured in 79 One Day Internationals for Pakistan, but were never really able to establish yourself and it seemed quite often the fall guy after a defeat. Do you feel you received a raw deal from the selectors in the past?
Imran Nazir: My job is to play cricket, go out on the field and perform. I leave the selection of the team to the selectors. I have no axes to grind against any selectors. The selectors have picked the teams to the best of their ability and they will probably feel that I have not been consistent enough or performed well enough.
My focus is to do well in domestic cricket and try and once again catch the eye of the selectors which is what I am trying to do at the moment.
Interviewer: You’ve worked with a number of coaches over the years, do you think the importance of coaches is overrated or are they an integral part of cricket?
Imran Nazir: A coach can only explain, help and teach the cricketers he is put in charge of. Once the players go out in to the middle there is very little the coach can do. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a number of excellent coaches. At the end of the day it’s down to the player himself to learn and to perform and it’s entirely down to the cricketer to apply what advice he has been given. You cannot blame the coach if a player does not apply himself and bat responsibly.
I worked with Ian Pont recently at the Bangladesh Premier League and he simply said to me to bat for as long as possible. Pont told me to stay at the crease, not to worry about how many runs I had scored in the first 6 overs but to just stay out in the middle and to aim to bat for the full twenty overs. He told me “think about batting for the twenty overs as you have all the shots and that if you bat anywhere near the full twenty overs you will be close to scoring a century.”
I took on-board what Pont said to me and it worked for me and I had a good BPL tournament. People have accused me of not taking singles, instead just going for the big shots, well I would urge those individuals to look at my innings at the BPL.
Interviewer: You have been labelled by some as a cricketer who can only succeed in the twenty over format. What is your response to this accusation?
Imran Nazir: I will reiterate that I have been given a God gifted talent. I feel that talent enables me to do well in all formats. Cricket has moved on, it’s become a lot more technical, the weaknesses of every batsman are analysed and pinpointed by the opposition. There are no batsmen out there currently and there never has been any batsman who has played cricket who has not had any weakness in his batting.
I have faith in my ability and I am confident that I can make a comeback for Pakistan in all three formats. Test cricket has changed and scoring rates have increased in the five day format, so I feel that my style of batting can be effective in Test cricket also.
Interviewer: It could be said that you have too many shots and haven’t always picked the right one?
Imran Nazir: Cricketing maturity comes with age and experience. I feel that I have matured now as a cricketer having played for so long against so many different types of opposition, against all types of bowlers and alongside many great cricketers.
Interviewer: Let’s speak about that innings of 160 from 121 deliveries against Zimbabwe at Kingston during the 2007 World Cup. Did you think a double century was possible during that innings?
Imran Nazir: My confidence levels that day were very high and everything clicked into place. Recently for Lashings I made in excess of 150 from 41 deliveries and I am sure that I can reach the landmark of 200 in a one day innings. I have a lot of self-belief these days, perhaps that was lacking at times during my international career. If it’s my day and I can bat close to the full 50 overs in a one day international I know I can score a double century.
Interviewer: We’ve seen an influx of twenty over tournaments around the world, which must be a blessing in disguise for a player of your hitting ability?
Imran Nazir: Yes the Bangladesh Premier League was an enjoyable experience and I’m also looking forward to the Sri Lankan Premier League too. These tournaments are exciting and I’d like to play in more of them around the world such as the Big Bash League and perhaps the Friends Life T20 in England. They are exciting tournaments for the fans and the players also.
Interviewer: You last played for Pakistan in February 2010, do you feel you have still have the desire and the temperament to play international cricket?
Imran Nazir: 100%. There is absolutely no doubt about it. I feel that now is my time to be playing international cricket as I think that I am a far better batsman these days, a more complete batsman, a batsman who has the ability to singlehandedly win a match for Pakistan. I would like nothing better to be given another chance to play for my country.
Interviewer: There are some rumours that your name will be included in the 30 man preliminary squad for the Twenty20 world cup later this year. What would a recall to the international team mean to you?
Imran Nazir: It would be fantastic if that happens. I sincerely hope that it occurs but let’s wait and see.
Interviewer: Many thanks for your time today.
Imran Nazir: My pleasure and before I sign off, I would just like to thank all of my fans around the world for all the support they have given me over the years and for all their prayers. It’s greatly appreciated and I hope that I can come back to international cricket and make them happy.