Umer Khan’s father repairs puncture on vehicles and inflate them. Umer targets deflating a batsman with his swift and cunning left-arm spin.
A hard-working father who could not afford the money and lack of opportunities in his native FATA (Federally Administrated Tribal Area, bordering Afghanistan) had never deflated Umer’s passion for making it big in cricket.
Nadeem Khan, a former Pakistan Test spinner and now Multan Sultans’ Manager, brought Umer to United Bank and groomed him without making it public. It was on Nadeem’s advice that Umer was given a chance for Pakistan U-19 in the Junior Asia Cup in Sri Lanka in 2016. Umer took two wickets in one match but never got another chance at the junior level.
“My friends spotted him while he was playing with some kids outside Peshawar cricket stadium. They were impressed with his action. I recruited him in UBL and we silently groomed him,” said Nadeem, who later recommended Umer to Sui Southern Gas (SSGC).
Umer made an instant impression, taking one for 70 and six for 37 on his first-class debut for SSGC against Peshawar.
“I am from FATA and I started cricket when I was in class five. There were very few opportunities as FATA did not have many facilities and my family was not well off, but it did not deter me as I always wanted to be big in cricket,” said Umer.
Hard work paid off, as Umer would work tirelessly in the nets to get maturity in bowling. He would use abandoned tyres as stumps and bowl for hours.
“I played for FATA and played U-19 for Pakistan. I live in Taxila and work hard on my cricket. I took six wickets in an innings on my first-class debut where Kabir Khan watched me and told Karachi Kings about me,” said Umer.
Umer was impressive in the warm-up match against Peshawar Zalmi at ICC Academy in Dubai on Tuesday, bowling to players like Kamran Akmal, Misbah-ul-Haq, Sohaib Maqsood and Dawid Malan.
“I was feeling well and excited that I am bowling to some great players like Kamran Akmal, Misbah-ul-Haq and Dawid Malan, and when I did well all Karachi Kings staff and players praised me. It made my heart big.”
Umer feels more and more players from poor backgrounds in FATA will come to cricket as peace has returned to the region.
“It’s exciting that peace is returning to FATA. Some of our players go to Peshawar and play cricket there. We have two grounds, one in Bajaur Agency and the other one in Khyber agency. We have our U-19 district there. Now, its good and some players are coming,” said Umer.
Sri Lanka great Rangana Herath is Umer’s ideal and he wants to make as big as the Sri Lanka master did.
“Herath was a world-class bowler,” accepts Umer. “He is my role model and I want to achieve as much as he did.”
In the Karachi Kings’ camp, skipper Imad Wasim, head coach Mickey Arthur and president Wasim Akram are a big motivation for young Umer.
“Maddy Bhai (Imad) tells me a lot of things on how to bowl such and such batsmen. He told me that you need variation in Twenty20 cricket and that I am learning,” said Umer.
“Wasim Akram and Mickey Arthur gave me confidence, they keep telling me and giving me encouragement that I can be a big player.”
Umer has the talent to go places and PSL has provided him with that launchpad.