Pakistani leg-spinner Usama Mir came to the attention of cricket fans during the second edition of the Pakistan Super League in the UAE. Keen observers of the domestic circuit will be aware that he was the leading wicket-taker in the 2015 edition of the Haier Super 8 T20 Cup and with 13 scalps, was the leading wicket-taker during the 2017 ACC Emerging Teams Cup where Pakistan ended up as runners-up to Sri Lanka.
With the national team still riding high on the success of this summer’s Champions Trophy victory, competition for bowlers is tough and currently, fellow leggie Shadab Khan rules the roost. Proficient with his language skills and eager to vanish some fitness misconceptions, Mir agreed to sit down for a cricketing tete-a-tete.
He first came to the nation’s collective attention when Pakistan national team and Karachi Kings coach, Mickey Arthur, used him in the crucial death over in a PSL2 match against arch rivals Peshawar Zalmi. The fact that he got the climatic wicket of then Zalmi player Shahid Afridi, was enough to catapult him into the post-match limelight. At the time, the bible of cricket, Cricinfo, described him as possessing nerves of steel whilst challenging Afridi to hit classic legspin balls.
It is always interesting dissecting a cricketer’s mind following a career-changing moment and his recollection of that night does not disappoint. “Mickey has always supported me, he used to tell me that I am Karachi Kings’ main bowler and a champion. In return he demanded a champion’s performance from me. His words motivated me. I also keep Mushy bhai’s advice at hand, keeping calm and focusing on my basics. My balls against Shahid bhai were of an exact length.”
He further elaborates, “Cricket is a game of ball and bat. I read the batsman, work out his good and weak areas and bowl accordingly. Even with a team plan, the first thing to focus on is the action.”
Th question everyone is asking, though, is that since Mickey Arthur had reportedly noticed him in domestic cricket as soon as he began working as national coach, why is Usama Mir still on the sidelines and will his lanky frame be able to sustain the pressures of international cricket. Mir says that he is back from injury and fully fit. “After working with the physios at the National Cricket Academy, I stood as the highest wicket taker in the High Performance Camp.”
The final question thrown his way is that as he’ll be playing under Usman Shinwari for Fata in the National T20, is it somewhat frustrating partaking in a domestic tournament, wouldn’t he much rather be a part of the upcoming World XI series. His answer was reminiscent of current Pakistan Test captain Sarfraz Ahmed who still plays cricket at every opportunity and level he gets. “I’m excited to play under Shinwari’s captaincy. Usman was my teammate when I played my first ever T20 match. We both played for Karachi Kings in PSL2 and we’re friends. It doesn’t matter if it’s a club match or an international series, my goal is to give the best at whatever opportunity I get.”
For now, Usama Mir’s immediate plan is to perform in first class and one-day domestic cricket. As far as leagues such as the Lancashire Leagues beckoning next year, he believes it is beneficial playing alongside foreign players as he seeks every opportunity to grow as a cricketer. “During PSL2, former Sri Lankan great Mahela Jayawardene emphasised game awareness, how to tackle pressure situations and gave us short pitch bowling tips from a batsman’s perspective. I then worked on those tips with our coach.”
He has been described as the next best hope to keep legspin alive in the country. Now he just has to live up to that reputation.