KARACHI: It is another typical Karachi pitch, slow with low bounce, almost a back-breaker for a fast bowler. WAPDA is fielding a star-studded line-up against the only regional team to progress to the Super Eight stage of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2016-17 season.
National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) ground provides the setting as Karachi Whites try to make a game; the business end of the country’s premier first-class tournament was always going to be an uphill task against the superior departmental teams for what was essentially Karachi’ second string team.
The Whites’ fell for 172 in their first innings as the ageless duo of Zulfiqar Babar and Mohammad Irfan ran through their youthful opponents.
In the group stage, the youngsters fought toe-to-toe against other fancied opponents largely due to another lion-hearted performance from their ‘aging’ speedster Tabish Khan, who has already grabbed 50 wickets in seven matches this season.
Tabish is hardly a spring chicken, on the contrary, he has toiled for some 15 years on largely unresponsive Karachi tracks.
Inexplicably, the 31 year-old has never made it to Pakistan’s Test squad, a handful of A team appearances aside, Tabish has hardly been in the reckoning, his wickets tally stands at 466 wickets from a mere 105 appearances, a bowling average of 23.87, five 10-wicket hauls and as many as 30 fifers.
The ongoing season he hasn’t knocked, he has broken down the proverbial ‘door to national selection’ and for the umpteenth time in his career, Tabish is reposing faith in a selection committee.
“I have worked even harder this season and spent a lot of time practicing my bowling in the nets,” said Tabish while talking to The Express Tribune. “My aim was to top the bowlers table since I feel that the current selection committee is giving chances to the performers, which has acted as a big motivation for me. I am very happy with the Whites’ team environment which has helped me excel this season.”
There’s no guarantee of a ‘reward’ once again, the motivation for the right-arm speedster comes from collecting first-class scalps.
“For sure it’s tough to stay motivated,” said Karachi-born pacer. “Especially when you feel that you aren’t getting the rewards for your effort, but one needs to keep striving endlessly and working hard. For me, taking wickets is a source of satisfaction.”
Tabish’s talent was identified early by Karachi selectors who handed him his first-class debut when he was only 17, after hitting his straps, Tabish started collecting wickets and more wickets steadily climbing up the milestones.
After entering the fray at such a young age, Tabish felt that the call-up for the national team would arrive in due course, that ‘due course’ is 15 years and counting already.
“My passion is playing cricket,” he said. “I made my first-class debut at the age of 17 and now 15 years later, the desire of representing my country is greater than ever.”
He added: “When people tell me that I am aging, I remind them and even reassure myself that bowlers like Tanveer Ahmed and Zulfiqar Babar also had to wait incredibly long before breaking into the Test team.”
While the Pakistan cap is perhaps too precious to be handed out to Tabish, the pacer’s disappointment is only enhanced since none of the five Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchises deemed him worthy of a place in their 2017 squads.
Tabish is quick to shrug-off the ‘red ball specialist’ tag, albeit his white ball numbers are not even half as impressive. (60 List A wickets in 49 matches, 38 T20 scalps in 36 games)
“Yes, I know the first-class or red ball specialist label; the fact is that I had scant white ball opportunities until recently,” he said. “The Karachi teams weren’t playing many limited-over matches and most of the times the departmental or the so-called seniors were accommodated in those games.
“I was very disappointed at missing out on PSL, I feel it is a platform for Pakistan players and domestic performers must be accommodated.”
Lastly, just a mere mention of New Zealand green tops-greener than the entire NBP outfield brings out a spontaneous nod of agreement.
“These New Zealand pitches are such a delight,” he said with a chuckle. “And like any other fast-bowler, I so wish I was bowling for Pakistan in the ongoing series.”
One feels Tabish has packed his bags to board the next flight to the Antipodean shores, not sure if Inzamamul Haq and co. are ready to hand him his ticket yet, hence tomorrow will be another day, another game and Tabish would run in searching for more ‘rewards’!