“He might or might not play India ever again in ODIs, but nonetheless, he did enjoy his time out grabbing attention and making the rivals sweat for his wicket. In more ways than one, his lifelong dream then did find ways of getting fulfilled”
“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
There is a magical tale that unfurls itself every moment a cricketer looking to make a mark comes face-up against a rival team that is beyond the ordinary. There is a sense of awe at the professionalism that they exhibit; a tinge of wonder at the skills they have obtained, and maybe even a queer sense of jealousy. The heart wishes to grasp onto the luxuries that the “rich and spoilt” brothers on the field possess and often, eyes can be seen wandering into the distant horizon, where, in a parallel universe, players from Associate countries are engulfed in a similar adulation.
Born in Pakistan, Nizakat Khan was aware of the popularity of cricket back in his heydays. He watched in awe as the likes of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis broke the stumps at regular periods and the fame that the bunch of players received forced him to embrace the realm even when he moved away to Hong Kong. In a completely different world from the one he had grown accustomed to, Nizakat would still dream of making it big in cricket, and even when the culture was almost anti-cricket, he would spend his afternoons tugging along the well-polished streets of Hong Kong with the willow in hand, trying to befriend every boy his age, desperately attempting to get his new acquaintance to fall in love with the game but to no avail.
But such was his passion towards the game that he refused to remain bogged down. The glamorous world of cricket had enticed him, and he was eager to stamp his name in the sport in his new nation. Playing the Under-19s for Hong Kong in 2010, Nizakat made his World Cricket League debut next year, whilst playing in the World Cricket League Division Three, where his one-handed heroics helped his side climb into Division Two. After much struggle, where he performed fairly well in List A games with both bat and ball, Nizakat made his ODI debut against Afghanistan in 2014 and there has been no looking back since then.
Though matches have been few and infrequent in between – he has played only 20 ODIs in four years – the hard work that he has pitched in has awe-inspiring. It was on fine display in the league game against India at Dubai when the player rode his luck to get to 92 runs off 115 deliveries, with 12 mesmerizing fours and one six. Playing in the main tournament after winning the Asia Cup Qualifiers, Hong Kong had a point to prove to all the experts who had dissed aside the encounter and were instead more focused on Pakistan’s clash with India. However, with a couple of textbook shots and with truckloads of character, the side, led by Nizakat ensured that a few ripples were created during the game.
The years spent in correcting his technique by watching clips of former cricketers bore fruit when none other than Sunil Gavaskar applauded the arsenal of shots in the young player’s armoury. Taking the width on offer, he elegantly brought the square cut into play by timing the delivery sweetly time and again and his right-out-of-the-coaching-manual straight drives were too pleasing to witness. He had little difficulty in slicing away the deliveries at his pads towards fine leg and his positive intent, where he tried to slash every short delivery hardly gave glimpses of a cricketer who had such little experience among the bigger fish in the pond.
Even against Kuldeep, he batted as if there was no morrow and by charging down the track and bludgeoning deliveries past the bowler, he piled on the highest first-wicket stand for Hong Kong with his skipper Anshuman Rath. But just when the nerves were creeping out again and just when the hopes of a fairy-tale gained momentum, a Khaleel Ahmed delivery that slanted in from round the wicket indicated his end. As the batsman tried to work it towards the on-side, he ended up playing around it even more and as the dreaded finger was raised, a frustrated smile spread across his face. He deserved that ton, on the day more than ever. It was his third out dismissed in the nineties, but as he trudged back to the pavilion, he could not help but visualize his childhood days when playing India had remained his primary aim.
He came to an agonizing eight runs short of a well-deserved maiden hundred; a hundred that he would have cherished for a long, long time. He might or might not play India ever again in ODIs, but nonetheless, he did enjoy his time out grabbing attention and making the rivals sweat for his wicket. In more ways than one, his lifelong dream then did find ways of getting fulfilled.