Left-handed batsmen always intrigue fans, more so when the loftiest of them all, West Indian Brian Lara and closer to home, Saeed Anwar’s proficient shots, add credence to the view that left-handers are faster at picking up line and length. No wonder then, that many a potential left-handed player begins his career hoping to have his feats cemented in the corridors of cricketing lore.
Enter Pakistani left-hander, Umar Amin – a player who at the beginning of his career, was often lauded as a probable replacement for the middle order of Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf. Colossal shoes to fill, indeed.
Umar Amin began his cricket playing for Eleven Star, then Gul Cricket Club in Rawalpindi. Fast forward a few years and in 2008 he was selected for the U19 World Cup. Off-spinner Imad Wasim was his captain and in his batch was fellow opening contender Ahmad Shahzad as well as pace bowlers Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan.
Given that most Pakistani upper order batsmen say this, it comes as no surprise that his preferred batting position is as an opener. He still shows a strong intent to open the innings but has a pragmatic approach to his game. “With both Ahmad Shahzad and Shan Masood in the team, I sacrificed my opening slot but I am often placed at No. 3, which is the backbone of any team.”
He made an unassuming Test debut at Lord’s against Australia in 2010 but with the prized wicket of opener Shane Watson in the 2nd innings at Leeds, he redeemed himself somewhat. When asked about the accuracy in his medium pace bowling, he comes back with a very confident response. “I have always been bowling as a part-time bowler. I break partnerships.”
Mention his ins and outs from the regular playing XI following his debut and Umar is not surprised by the query but is careful to point out a practical reason for it. “So many people have asked me this before you. I have not been selected regularly. In domestic, I play in all three formats. I am often picked for the shorter formats. As I see it, the team combination in our Test squad was so strong, how could you impose another player in some position.”
In 2012 he took part in the ECB-governed, Northern Premier Cricket League, where he was based in Morecambe for five months. It is his England experience which appears to have had the most impact on him. “As one of the few specialists in a team of largely amateur players, I had to play with care.”
A year later he came to the attention of international media. He captained a Pakistan A tour match against South Africa in Sharjah to a draw, where Shan Masood and Ahmad Shahzad opened the innings and he played at No. 6.
In 2014 Umar Amin joined Walsall Cricket Club, a team that partakes in the Birmingham and District Premier Cricket League and the Staffordshire Club Cricket Championship. Again the influence of playing in England becomes apparent with his description of his time there. “Opening and playing at No. 3 made me realise the value of my wicket. Being the only professional, I had to play an anchor role. It was a huge responsibility on my shoulders.”
Having scored a decent 45 from 37 against Sri Lanka in Lahore in October 2017, in his most recent outing he captained SSGC to the semis of the domestic Departmental One Day Cup. Thus he is confident ahead of the 1st T20 against New Zealand in Wellington. Is he hoping to be given the opening slot? “Why not, in my last game I opened and that is what I am expecting.”
He travelled to New Zealand with fellow opener Ahmad Shahzad and Fakhar Zaman is already familiar with the conditions but their presence has done nothing to dent his self-belief. When asked about the potential other openers in the team, his response is swift. “Internal rivalry is good. I am up for the competition.”
A lot of players, when asked about their long-term goals, give the standard answer of looking at the short-term and playing it match by match. Umar Amin shows that he is in it for the long haul. “I want to represent my country for the next many years with pride and dignity. I have to make sacrifices if I want to play and I have always been up to the challenge.”
In an earlier interview, Umar had mentioned that his family wants him to complete his education. When reminded that players such as South African bowler Morne Morkel have studied part-time whilst on tour, he mentions that although he would like to study further, the support structures for this are not in place around him. It is perhaps this quest to improve himself cerebrally that has him mentioning former Test captain Misbah-ul Haq and others as fine examples of players who react in the field with their thought processes intact.
At a time when fewer Pakistani players are being seen on the county circuit, were he to do well in New Zealand, his experience in English conditions may well suit the matches against England, Ireland and Scotland later this summer. Whilst his full potential has yet to be realised at the crease, he already comes across as the thinking man’s cricketer.