Hussain Talat – A star in the making

Hussain Talat – A star in the making
Shukriya Pakistan

Hussain Talat developed the love for cricket seeing his father, uncles and brother play for Ravi Cricket Club in Shaadra. The then 11-year old used to accompany his father and elder brother, who used to go to a nearby ground for training before dawn. Like any other kid of Pakistan, he was also a street-cricketer. His father soon realized that his younger son has also got the passion for the game so he took the young Talat to the same club, from where he started his journey.

He played a couple of years in the Ravi Cricket Club and then switched to Muslim Model School when he was in 7th grade, which was a cricket school. “It was a cricket school, where you play cricket and also study alongside, there used to be practice sessions from 9 AM to 12 PM at the Manto Park,” he told. The school has been quite successful on the school circuit and have done international tours.

Hussain Talat was an extremely hard working and a dedicated cricketer since he started playing. While he was in the cricket school, he also joined a club called Victorious Cricket Club that also used to do nets in the Manto Park in the evening. “There was a club at Manto Park, Victorious Cricket Club, who has produced many international cricketers including Amir Sohail. They used to do nets in the evening at the same venue, so I used to practice with the school in the morning and with the club in the evening.”

When the left-handed batsman was in school, he was selected for Lahore U-16 side. As he was going to play for the U-19 zonal tournament, his club, Victorious, stood in his way and did not forward his name to favour cricketers that have been with them since their childhood. Each club had to recommend two names, but they refused to forward his. He was worried about his progress in the circuit. At that time, his former club, Ravi Cricket Club came to his rescue on a special request of his father. “At that moment, I asked my former club, Ravi Cricket Club if they can recommend my name, but they were reluctant as I wasn’t playing for them, but my father requested them to send my name, eventually they forwarded my name along with another player and I was in the inter-district U-19 team.”

His test did not end there. In the inter-district tournament, there are five matches for each team. Despite a consistent performer at the U-16 level, Talat was given just one game in the first four, where he managed to score only 21 runs. The other player that his former club recommended was being favoured over him. Being disheartened, he called his regional U-16 coach, Kamran Khan who had asked him to talk to him whenever he is stuck. Knowing the potential of the batting all-rounder, his former coach contacted his zone’s chairman and convinced him to give him a chance in the last match of the campaign. “I called him and explained him the whole situation. My coach then called the chairman of my zone and convinced him to give me an opportunity. He [Kamran Khan] then informed me that you are playing the next game, make the most out of it,” he told. Talat was asked by his coach to perform outstandingly well in that match to advance in the domestic circuit.

The determined Hussain Talat took the field with a thought that he has to play the best inning of his career that day. “I scored 120 runs in that contest,” he told cheerily. I will never forget that match. Had I not played that game, I would not have been here today,” he shared. Afterward, there was no looking back for him.

Every player has to play three seasons in U-19 regional. He represented Lahore U-19 in his debut year where he scored around 300 runs. Then there were departments’ U-19 teams in the system, so he represented ZTBL in the next two years, where he got 500+ runs in the second season and topped the third season with more than 800 runs under his belt. Seeing the immense potential in the young cricketer, his department offered him a place in their senior team. He made his List A debut during a one-day tournament in 2013-14 and he was straightaway among the top five run-scorers of that season. He scored two half-centuries and a 141 not out in his first four one-dayers. With that performance, he had announced his arrival.

With his consistent run in the domestic circuit, it was almost impossible to ignore him. He made it into Pakistan U-19 team that toured England. “We had a triangular series there and we were the champions at the end, we were unbeaten throughout the tournament. I took ten wickets and scored more than 200 runs, I won the man of the match award in one of the games, where I scored around 70 runs and took three wickets,” he recalled.

While playing U-19 cricket, he learned that the difference between Pakistan cricket and other countries is that they groom their players very well. Most of the players of Pakistan U-19 lose their way somewhere in the middle before landing in the national side. Whereas, other teams handpick their players from the grass-root level and nourish their skills to compete against the best cricketers of the world.

The day since Pakistan Super League was announced, he was confident to be selected by a team. He had no idea which franchise will pick him, but he was certain that he will play the league. “I had decent performances under my belt. I had the feeling that I will play PSL,” he told. “I still remember, on the draft day, there was a game between SNGPL and WAPDA at the UBL Sports Complex, Karachi, everyone was hoping to get his name in the league. Then I was informed that Islamabad United has picked me and later I came to know that I was under their radar since I played the domestic T20 tournament. I was on the cloud nine!”

The champions of the inaugural edition PSL, Islamabad United had a star-studded team with Misbah Ul Haq leading the side and players like Saeed Ajmal playing under him. Talat had earlier played with these two in the domestic circuit and had good chemistry with them, so he was not overawed at the occasion. However, being an all-rounder and having foreign stars like Shane Watson and Andre Russell in the ranks, he was ecstatic to play alongside them. “I was very eager to play alongside Shane Watson, Andre Russell and the other international stars of the team. I was looking forward to learning different tricks of the game from them and nurture myself,” he told.

The emerging all-rounder was excited to learn under the wing of Shane Watson and look to get as much knowledge from him as possible. “I talked to Shane Watson during the tournament as he was one of the best all-rounders in the cricket fraternity, his tips helped me rectify my mistakes,” Hussain Talat mentioned. “He advised me to work on my fitness and keep working on my weaknesses. I learned discipline from him, in fact I have learned a lot from our local players like Misbah Ul Haq in domestic as well, he is a role model for budding cricketers all around the world,” he added.

Wasim Akram was in the coaching staff of Islamabad United during the first two seasons of PSL, being a top-class bowler and a handy batsman in his playing days, learning from him can be priceless for any young cricketer. It was like a dream come true for the young man. “I always wished to learn from Wasim Akram, he taught us a lot, and he taught us discipline. He emphasized on fitness and a healthy lifestyle. He imparted the precious knowledge that he learned in his long career,” he went on to say.

Talking about the time he spent under Akram’s mentorship, he recalled his PSL debut, when he was extremely nervous ahead of the game but went on to score a half-century, he shared the priceless words that the Sultan of Swing said to him. “I was very nervous before the match as I was finally going to play in the tournament,” he recalled. “I was doing knocking after the warm-ups, Wasim bhai came to me and said ‘just take a deep breathe, go out there and play your natural game’. It just took the pressure off me, I planned to spend some time in the middle and then go for my shots. God helped me and I went to score a half-century.”

After the PSL, Talat was called for the 30-men camp ahead of the West Indies tour, though he could not make it into the 15-member squad, but he feels that he is in the mind of selectors. Islamabad United has given Pakistan valuable players like Rumman Raees and Shadab Khan. He aims to contribute with both the bat and the ball for Islamabad United in the tournament and knock the doors of the national side. “I want to be the key performer for my team with both the bat and the ball. I want to make Islamabad United champions once again,” he expressed. “I have worked on power hitting and strike rotation. I have also worked on bowling variations. I am working extremely hard and will look to deliver whenever my team will need,” he concluded.