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Monday, May 9, 2011

"I Deserve Another Chance for Pakistan" : Imran Nazir

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Imran Nazir's international career can best be described as a roller coaster. The highs and lows of the 29 year old from Gujranwala epitomise the inconsistency that has marred Pakistan cricket for many years.

Very much like the Pakistan side, Imran Nazir at his best is a mercurial talent that has every shot in the book and can make mincemeat out of any bowling attack in the world. On a bad day Imran, like Pakistan, can be described as frustrating and average at best.

Nazir made his test debut at the tender age of 17 in Lahore, making 64 and 13 respectively in a drawn match against Sri Lanka. On debut, Nazir displayed an array of shots that mesmerised fans and cricketing pundits and many predicted a bright future for the hard hitting right hander.

However despite the good start to test cricket, Nazir has only represented Pakistan a further seven times in test cricket after his debut. Nazir's style of batting was classified by many a selector as better suited for the twenty over or fifty over formats despite two centuries and a half century in his thirteen test innings.

Whilst Nazir's last test appearance for Pakistan was back in 2002, his last one day appearance was in October 2009 when he scored 28 runs against New Zealand in the Champions Trophy semi final defeat to New Zealand in Johannesburg. Nazir's one day statistics display a number of good starts, but only 2 centuries in 79 one day innings, although he has managed to pass the half century mark on 9 occasions. An average of just under 25 does not do justice to the immense talent that Nazir has always possessed, but closer analysis reveals that the Gujranwala born Nazir has been dismissed between 20 and 40 on twenty three occasions in one day internationals, adding weight to his critics argument that Nazir has the tendency to give his wicket away when well set.

Nazir's Twenty/20 statistics reveal that his last appearance for Pakistan was in February of last year when he managed scores of only 2 and 4 respectively against England in UAE. Nazir's 16 twenty over internationals have yielded 324 runs at an average of just over 23 and a strike rate of 137.

Speaking to PakPassion.net from Abu Dhabi, Nazir spoke of his hope that his international career was not over and that the selectors will give him a chance to prove himself again.

"I look at the Pakistan one day and Twenty20 sides at the moment and feel there is definitely a place and a role for myself in both sides. I think that I can give the Pakistan side something different and something they are lacking at the moment which is the ability to give the team a quick start and launch pad for the middle and lower order batsmen to capitalise upon. I think I deserve another chance for Pakistan."

Nazir's domestic form of late has been impressive for ZTBL with five half centuries in his last eleven innings and he feels that this is down to more maturity and patience.

"People think that Imran Nazir can only play one style of cricket and that is to try and hit the ball to all corners of the park, but I don't agree with that and I feel that I am a more than just a hard hitting batsmen. If you look at some of my innings in domestic cricket last season you will see that they were not just quickfire twenties and thirties. I'm nearly 30 years of age and feel that I am a more mature individual. People tend to forget that I played a lot of cricket for Pakistan at a very young age. Expectations were high from fans and I was in and out of the Pakistan side. There was a lot of pressure on me and I would say that to have that sort of pressure at such a young age did at times affect me."

Nazir also feels that his twelve years in domestic cricket have served him well and he feels that he is in perfect shape mentally and physically to return to international cricket.

"I have never felt better. I'm fully fit, raring to play for Pakistan and I feel that this is now my time to get a chance for Pakistan, a consistent run in the side and to deliver for my country."

Nazir admitted though that shot selection had been a problem in the past and that on too many occasions he'd let himself down with a rash stroke.

"Yes I agree that shot selection has been an issue in the past and it's been frustrating. Make no mistake, I would get just as much frustrated being dismissed after a good start, as the fans and my team mates would. Scoring twenties and thirties won't hurt the opposition. I know that once settled into the crease, it's important for an opening batsman to build on a good start. You learn the hard way and I've really thought about this during my time away from international selection."

Pakistan's next one day assignments are the 2 matches in Ireland and a possible series against Zimbabwe. Both are series that Imran is definitely eyeing up and as well as a possible international recall, Nazir has the Sri Lankan domestic Twenty20 competition to show off his skills in.

"I'd love to be given a chance against Ireland and Zimbabwe. I'm ready to serve my country again. Whilst there is no domestic cricket in Pakistan ongoing to catch the eye of the selectors, I have signed up to play in the upcoming Sri Lankan Twenty20 competition. There has also been interest from Australian sides to play in the next edition of the Big Bash, so that is a possibility. If I can perform in those series and also continue to perform well in domestic cricket back home, then I'm hopeful the selectors will see me as worthy of another chance, as the 2011 version of Imran Nazir has maturity added to the array of shots."
Pakistan's opening partnerships in the recently concluded twenty20 and one day series have seen the openers muster 7, 68, 66, 9, 15 and 16, with Ahmed Shehzad being particularly inconsistent. Imran Nazir waits in the wings for his day in the sun, and hopes to grab the chance with both hands this time around. 

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