I Follow Virat Kohli and Babar Azam a Lot: Usman Salahuddin:
With another season of Pakistan’s premier first class tournament “Quaid-e-Azam trophy” done and dusted, it is indeed the most major platform where many potential talented players make a case for themselves in order to be seen by the eyes of the national selectors and selected for the national side. On the other hand, those who have lost their opportunities, been dropped from the national squad also fancy their chances of comeback by giving improved performances in domestic circuit and present themselves again for the selection process.
One of the stars who has been knocking on the selectors doors for a comeback to the Red ball squad based on his performances is Usman Salahuddin. Usman made his debut against the West Indies in 2011 and only played two ODI games before being dropped. He also made his test debut in 2018 against England in Leeds, but that to date has been the only test match Usman has played in his international career. Since then, he has been trying to make a case for his comeback to the national squad. He has given some stellar performances in the current edition of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, finishing as the third-highest run scorer of the tournament, but yet again was unpicked in the National team.
In an exclusive interview with CricketHolic, Usman talked about his recent form, the reasons behind his batting success and aspirations for a future berth in the Pakistan team. You can read his full interview below.
CricketHolic: You have scored more than 9,000 runs in your first class career, including 28 Centuries and 53 Half centuries. What is the reason behind this success?
Usman Salahuddin : I would just like to thank Almighty Allah, my job is to do the hard work and with hard work, you certainly do get the results in your favour and the reward from Almighty Allah.
CricketHolic: You have also had a terrific Quaid-e-Azam Trophy season this year scoring 860 runs in 16 innings, scoring 4 centuries being amongst the leading Run scorers. Once again, What has been your secret and the reason behind your continuous success?
Usman Salahuddin: Again, I would thank the almighty that I have been able to do so well this season, the main reason behind these performances is my dedication, my strong mind and my hard work. As you are aware that the competition is tough, and the players are also really competitive and with the new domestic structure, it is really competitive and all the great players are in action and hence it is not easy to perform.
CricketHolic: You have played in both the new and old domestic structures of Pakistan. How would you compare them both, and would you say there is more competition now?
Usman Salahuddin: The competition has definitely increased with the reduction of the number of teams in the domestic structure. We can see that top class cricketers of Pakistan are playing in the domestic structure and the competition between the players has got really tough and if you perform in such tournaments no doubt your confidence level gets boosted quite a lot which happened with me. Unfortunately, I got injured last season and was unable to play, however I finished in the Top 3 Run Scorers the year before that in 2020 as well. It is not easy to come back from an injury, but thanks to almighty Allah I am happy with my performance and my confidence has also grown quite a lot.
CricketHolic: In the 2020 season, you scored a double century in what was effectively a semifinal game for your team against your current side Southern Punjab, Would you talk us through that innings?
Usman Salahuddin: Yes, definitely, it was a very important game for us against Southern Punjab, and that innings was one of my finest and greatest knocks as that knock helped my team qualify for the final in that season and even the knocks which I have played this season have been great especially for myself and for boosting my confidence.
CricketHolic: You are playing for a different team this season, How was playing with Southern Punjab like for you?
Usman Salahuddin: To be honest, all the sides are equally good. Hasan Ali led our side Southern Punjab, and we also had experienced players like Muhammad Abbas and myself and the rest of the team had many youngsters and no doubt we gave our very best on the field in this season and unfortunately could not make it to the finals as Four Day cricket is quite tough, and it is not easy to play with a young squad, and I am really hopeful that Insha’Allah next year this young side would do even better and qualify for the Finals.
CricketHolic: Every player has critics, many players are often also criticized by experts who are also former cricketers, have you ever been criticized and called for smashing inexperienced bowlers?
Usman Salahuddin: With the change of format of our domestic cricket, the top cricketers take part in our domestic tournaments and hence I don’t think there are any inexperienced bowlers, however at the start when I used to play at regional level, critics often used to say that I don’t play departmental cricket and only score against weak teams, but again I am really thankful to almighty Allah that I have been able to score runs whenever and wherever I have played regardless of the conditions and the teams that I play against.
Segment Fans Ka Sawaal
In this segment, Usman answered the questions that the fans had sent to us through our social platforms using the hashtag Fans ka Sawaal.
1) Was there a Cricketer whom you used to watch, and it inspired you to play Cricket? Who is your current favourite batsman? (Afaq Warraich, Sialkot)
Ans: My father is also an ex cricketer who has also represented Pakistan at Under 19 level, he also played domestic cricket for a long period of time, and he has an important role in my life. Cricket was in my blood right from the start, and my father definitely motivated me and made me develop an interest in Cricket, and I started playing Cricket because of him.
Currently, many players are my favourite, I follow Virat Kohli quite a lot. Amongst others, I follow Babar Azam, Joe Root, Kane Williamson quite closely and try to learn from them and perform consistently like them.
2) Which bowler have you found to be the toughest to face against in your playing career? (Farhad Shaikh, Lahore)
Ans: Mostly I have lost my wicket against the spinners, as I think I often take the spinners lightly due to which I end up loosing my wicket against them when striking against them. On the other hand, I feel like I have dominated the fast bowlers and performed well against pace. The change in my batting position and batting up the order has definitely helped me improve my game against the pacers quite a lot.
3) How would you rate the standard of pitches in Pakistan? (Syed Arsal Ali, Karachi)
Ans: I think overall, in the Asian conditions you will find slow pitches and spinning tracks and dry conditions which often helps the batters, and therefore this is normal for Asia as compared to SENA conditions where there is more help for fast bowlers. But no doubt we have world-class fast bowlers in Pakistan and those bowlers who give their best are often even successful on these pitches and hence it cannot be said that all the pitches in Pakistan only help batters, the Fast bowlers who give their hundred percent are
also rewarded on these pitches.
4) Is there regular communication between selectors and players? Are the players informed why they are dropped and when they are close to selection? (Arsalan Ali Shani, Bhakkar)
Ans: Yes definitely, if a certain player is to be selected or is under consideration for the national squad the selectors do inform the player beforehand, and you are also informed about the areas which you need to improve when dropped from the squad. So the communication between the player and selectors is definitely there and is also quite essential.
5) The twenty over format (T20) seems to be the most popular format, the fan’s favourite and also the fast track selection pathway for the national side, We have not seen you playing a lot in the T20 format, do you plan to play more of the T20 tournaments in the future? (Ali Ahmad, Chakwal)
Ans: I will soon be going to Karachi for the upcoming Pakistan Cup in the T20 format, my main game is test cricket and I believe that test cricket is indeed the real cricket as you are tested in every aspect of the game. My focus is to also perform in the white ball formats just like I have been performing in the Red ball format.
CricketHolic: Currently you are within touching distances of making a comeback for the national side, what are your future plans and targets?
Usman Salahuddin: My job is to perform, and I have done that and whenever the selectors would feel like there is a slot within the national side where I might be needed, they will definitely consider my name for selection. My aim has always been to give my one hundred percent in the matches which I am a part of, and the selection is not in my control. The selectors are more aware as to who they want to select and would be more suited in the team. I do not get disappointed when my name is not considered for the national side, and in the end my aim is to perform and give my one hundred percent for whichever team I play for.
CricketHolic: What would be your concluding message for your supporters and Fans?
Usman Salahuddin: Firstly, I would like to thank all my fans and supporters for their immense and continuous support over the years. I would like to give a message for all the young cricketers who are out there and say: “Keep Working Hard, and stay focused on your game and that there are no shortcuts in life”, it is important to have firm belief in yourself and the almighty Allah will surely reward you at some stage if you always stay patient.