One of the main motivations of launching the Pakistan Super League (PSL) was to cultivate new talent from parts of the country that do not get representation in sports.
Each year, the league, in addition to filling up the coffers of the cricket board, replenishes the national talent pool with a new crop of cricketers.
The practice has produced names such Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi and Haider Ali to name a few.
This year, the player who has got everyone’s attention is 22-year old fast bowler Shahnawaz Dahani – a young man from Larkana who has impressed everyone with his performances.
Dahani was picked by Multan Sultans as an emerging player in the PSL6 draft earlier this year and made his debut for Sultans during a game against Peshawar Zalmi. Since then, he has played three games and has taken two wickets in each of them.
In an exclusive chat with Geo Super, the bowler from Larkana shared his struggle, journey and future targets.
Of tape-ball cricket, makeshift TV screens and 3G bowling
Dahani is from a small village named Khuhawar Khan Dahani. He used to play tape-ball cricket, barefooted, on an open and uneven field in his village.
“I was passionate about bowling fast and was known in my village for my fast bowling, that’s why many there had named me 3G bowler – to relate the speed with the speed of the internet,” Dahani said with his typical smile.
“I didn’t know anything about professional cricket, I had no idea what gears one needs to play proper cricket. One day, there were some guests in my village and they saw me bowling with tape ball, they immediately invited me to appear in [the] U19 trials the next day,” he recalled.
Dahani said when he was invited for the trials, he didn’t have any proper gear or shoes. So he borrowed it from a friend and showed up to the trials. He got selected to play inter-district U19 matches.
The fast bowler said he was so passionate about cricket that he never missed any game on TV.
“There was no facility, proper cable or anything so we made makeshift arrangements with friends to watch cricket matches. I had memorised stats and [the] action of all the bowlers then,” he said.
“My father was not too much in favor of my activity as he wanted me to concentrate on studies,” Dahani said. He completed his education and has a B.Com degree.
“He [my father] is no more with us, but I am sure he would’ve been very proud today seeing me become the face of my village and bringing laurels” he said.
Dahani said when he completed the U19 season, he didn’t know there was a rule called “overage”. He showed up for trials again only to be told that he’s not eligible and needs to compete with seniors now.
“I had no idea what had just happened, but I didn’t give up and made myself realise that if I have to compete, I will have to beat everyone” he said.
Shahnawaz Dahani’s PSL6 goals
Since then, Dahani hasn’t looked back. After playing grade 2 cricket, he made his first class debut last season and got 27 wickets in 8 games. His performance during the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy impressed many and that’s why he got picked as an emerging player by Multan Sultans.
Dahani knows the importance of playing in PSL and he has set some goals for himself.
“I want to be among [the] best bowlers here. I know it’s a tough competition but I am giving my best. The number of wickets I get is not in my hands. So, I will do what is in my hands and that’s to give my best and make every effort,” he aimed.
“Everyone has their eyes on PSL and your performances here are noticed. Of course, you’re noticed once you perform here and it paves your way to [the] national team – you become a true star only when you’ve Pakistan’s star donned on your chest,” Dahani said.
He realises the learning opportunity this league is providing him and is aiming to take maximum advantage while sharing the dressing room with some big names of the game.
“Sharing a dressing room with players like Shahid Afridi, Imran Tahir, Carlos Brathwaite is confidence boosting for me. To be with them, celebrate with them and share a dressing room is increasing my courage as a cricketer,” he said.
“I know that expectations are increasing from me and I’ve to improve my game as well. I am working hard under [the] supervision of Azhar Mehmood and others who are guiding me on various aspects of T20 cricket,” Dahani said.
He said that even three matches and two weeks in the Multan Sultans camp has helped him a lot and he feels like different bowler from what he was before joining the PSL squad.
“I’ve got to know about variations, the difference between new ball and death overs, and how to read the mind. I am learning this art from my coaches,” said the young pacer.
He feels not too many people knew about him before he joined the Multan Sultans, but now everyone is talking about him which brings more responsibility over his shoulders.
“I will try not to let down my supporters and will always be the same person for everyone,” he said, adding that words cannot explain how he felt when he heard cheers of “Dahani Dahani” surround the National Stadium while he was bowling.
‘Dream wicket is Babar Azam’
The young bowler said Babar Azam would be his dream wicket and he came close when Azam had almost edged during the Sultans vs Kings game.
“It was so close but even to beat a batsman like Babar is something very important for me. This gave me confidence that I could take his wicket next time,” Dahani said.
He said that he aims to emulate bowlers like Shane Bond and Jofra Archer who are his role models.