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Faiz Fazal’s path to Indian team and success does not run through IPL

Faiz Fazal believes that he came into prominence for his match-winning 127 against Mumbai in the Irani Cup.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty | Kolkata |
Updated: May 24, 2016 10:53:56 am
faiz fazal, fazal, faiz fazal india, india tour of zimbabwe 2016, india vs zimbabwe, india cricket team, india squad for zimbabwe, cricket news, cricket Faiz Fazal is currently in Durham, playing for North Eastern Premier League. (Source: PTI)

According to Vidarbha Ranji team coach Paras Mhambrey, Faiz Fazal is a “nice guy” with a “great sense of humour”. Playing for Hetton Lyons in the North East Premier League at Durham at the moment, the “nice guy” never thought about getting an India call-up for the limited-overs series in Zimbabwe. The selection came as a pleasant surprise and the feeling hasn’t sunk in yet. Incidentally, he is the only uncapped player picked for the tour of Zimbabwe who does not have an IPL contract.

“I wasn’t expecting this. Earlier, I used to expect a lot of things but past disappointments taught me to be a little indifferent. Playing for India was always my aim but it has been a tough journey so far. I have always tried to be more consistent, for this is something which never goes off. This is a fantastic opportunity but once again, it would be about being consistent at the top level,” Fazal said.

Also Read: ‘If you survive in Mumbai cricket, you get rewarded’

Fazal, a left-handed opening batsman from Vidarbha, has been sort of journeyman in Indian domestic cricket who made his first-class debut in December 2003. He moved out to play for Railways before returning to his home state four years ago, when wedding bells rang. In 2004, he was picked to play the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh. But he missed the bus due to an injury as Dhawan replaced him. It was his first date with heartbreak. Things barely changed along the way. Little wonder then that Fazal stopped expecting.

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Also Read: Selectors look beyond IPL, reward domestic performers

Thirteen years after making his first-class debut and 79 matches and 5,341 runs later, he has eventually made the cut; at 30 years of age. The good thing about the Sandeep Patil-led selection committee is that it is not overly obsessed with youth, focusing on performance instead. Karnataka seamer Sreenath Aravind made his India debut at 31, playing a T20 international against South Africa at Dharamsala in October last year. Fazal, too, has earned his place in the national team by dint of his performance in domestic cricket.

Also Read: India include Mishra, Shami, Shardul gets maiden call-up

His match-winning 127 for in the Irani Cup earlier this year certainly acted as a catalyst as Rest of India pulled off a thrilling fourth innings chase against Ranji champions Mumbai. Fazal had been excellent during his 112-ball 100 in the Deodhar Trophy final as well. The contributions came on the heels of his 312 runs at 52.00 in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and 205 runs in nine matches in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Before that in the Ranji Trophy, he made 559 runs in eight matches, including two centuries and three half-centuries.

Also Read: Dhoni to lead in Zimbabwe; Faiz Faizal, Chahal, Jayant surprise picks

Figures were not that impressive in 2014-15 with aggregates of 483 and 192 in the Ranji Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy respectively. He wasn’t picked for the domestic T20. He had been working hard but the process was yet to come to fruition. “We started the process two seasons ago. It was about taking baby steps towards the target; achieving more0 consistency. No, we never talked about the Indian team,” Mhambrey told this paper. Fazal worked on his technique. “Yes, I made technical adjustments to ensure I play close to my body. I also worked on my head position. I tried to play more number of balls during off-season. I hardly missed even a local game. I worked a lot on my fitness. See, I love Test cricket and try to develop my game accordingly. But you can’t be one-dimensional these days. You must be good enough for the shorter formats as well. Then again, if you get your basics right, you can succeed across formats,” he said.

His father Yakub, also his personal coach, played a massive role in nurturing Fazal. “He was a former club-level cricketer who featured among the Vidarbha Ranji Trophy probables. I learnt my cricket from him. I must also mention Maulana Amiruddin Malak, my religious guru, who has had been a constant source of support and inspiration.”

Fazal didn’t get a team in the IPL but he wasn’t disappointed. Playing league cricket in England excited him and he turned up at Durham. Being in the Indian limited-overs squads for the tour of Zimbabwe is the first step forward towards his ultimate goal; playing Test cricket.

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