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Spotlight: Faisal Iqbal

I have played mostly as a replacement rather than as a regular player in the side. This has weighed heavily on my mind and affected my performance,’ says Faisal Iqbal

It’s been quite a while since Faisal Iqbal played his first Test match. But for some odd reason he hasn’t been able to cement his place in the Pakistan cricket team as a middle-order batsman.

He has had his share of detractors and followers and it is believed that being a nephew of the cricketing legend Javed Miandad has also weighed heavily on his mind. This week Sunday Magazine reports his side of the story.

Sunday Magazine: It’s been eight years since you played your first Test match. You haven’t been able to create a permanent place for yourself in the national cricket team. What is the reason for it?

Faisal Iqbal: I have played mostly as a replacement rather than a regular player in the side. Players like Younus Khan and Misbahul Haq were given chances on a regular basis, which is why they have cemented their place in the team. In my case, I have always been selected in the team as a replacement for a senior cricketer who’s out either because of an injury or some other reason.

For example, in the Karachi Test I played as Inzamamul Haq’s replacement; and during the Indian tour I played two Tests when Shoaib Malik was out of the side because he’d sustained an injury. So it has always kept me under pressure. I often think even if I score, I will be dropped from the squad in the next match. And this is despite the fact that I’ve scored on most occasions and even saved Pakistan from getting defeated.

You’ve played almost at every position in the batting order. Hasn’t the change in the batting order affected your performance?
Batting at different positions is always difficult and has affected my performance. Look at Mohammad Yousuf, Younus Khan and Inzamamul Haq: they’ve all played at fixed positions, which is why they’ve performed well. In my case my position in the team has remained uncertain, and so has my batting position. But what has really affected my performance is that I’ve always felt that a sword hangs over my head whenever I go out to bat.

Why did you agree to play at different positions? You could have refused.
I opened the inning in the third match of my career and scored a century, besides winning Man of the Match award. At the time I was told that it would be in the team’s benefit. But it is the job of the management to discover what capabilities I have. If I am fit to play as an opener then I should be trusted to prove myself. But it isn’t happening. When Shaoib Malik fails as an opener, he bats as a middle order batsman; but when I fail I am dropped from the team. I must say that if the authorities think I am better as an opener, I am even ready to play at that position.

It is said that you are in the team because Javed Miandad is your uncle. What’s your response to that accusation?
My relations with Javed uncle have actually proved counter-productive as far as my cricketing career is concerned. People don’t look at it that way and start pointing fingers. When Javed uncle was coach of the national team, I remained mostly out of the side. It was my performance in the Under-19 World Cup which provided me with an opportunity to play in the national squad. When I played my debut Test, my coach was Intikhab Alam and I was included in the team because of my impressive performances in domestic cricket.

Did Javed Miandad help you in learning the tricks of the trade?
It was Ahmed Mustafa not Javed Miandad who coached me in my early days. I remained in Mustafa’s academy for five years and learnt all the basics of cricket there. England’s Owais Shah was also my mate in that academy. Javed uncle polished my technique when I was already knocking at the doors of international cricket.

When you scored a century in the Karachi Test, don’t you think it was the time you could have cemented your place in the team?
It was a special innings for me because it was my first Test century and that too against India. Pakistan won the Test series by winning that match. Before the match I was being heavily criticised for my inclusion in the team and was under pressure because I was playing as Inzamamul Haq’s replacement. However, when the skipper rejoined the team, I lost my place again. Regular gaps while playing international cricket can jeopardise anyone’s cricketing career.

Have you ever tried playing county cricket?
I play league cricket in England, not county cricket. No county has approached me so far. It is because I’ve not become a regular member of my national team.

You played two Tests during the recently concluded series against India. Where do you think Pakistan went wrong?
I played two Tests because Shoaib Malik had fitness problems. About these two matches I can say that the team’s batting was good enough but our bowlers couldn’t get breakthroughs in crucial moments.

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