CricTracker Exclusive: My dream is to play for India, says Abdul Samad after bagging an IPL contract with SRH
He also spoke about how Irfan Pathan played a crucial role in him getting picked in J&K team.
Published - Jan 7, 2020 5:14 pm
Updated - Jan 7, 2020 5:14 pm
One of the beauties of sport is every day you get to listen or hear or read about the little sub-plots that ultimately paved the way in the making of the champion athletes. We learn about their struggles, the hardships that they faced in the wake of the inadequacy of facilities required to become a top-notch sportsman. It also helps us to gain an insight into the not-so-glamorous life of the past, we learn about the tear and sweat of not only them but also of their families, coaches, and mentors and the number of sacrifices that they had made to give the country and its fans a talent that we all are proud of.
The inspiring story of 18-year-old Abdul Samad is another such tale where relentless hard work, numerous sacrifices of his parents and the persistent support from a mentor marries precocious talent. Samad hails from Jammu & Kashmir; a place which is almost always in the news for all the wrong reasons.
And his rise from a boy, playing in an alley with his brother to a precocious talent, who just earned an IPL contract with the Sunrisers Hyderabad- once again tells you that if you have that burning desire of achieving your dreams, no matter what the conditions are, no matter how hostile and inadequate the environment is, you’ll always find a way to come out on top.
Abdul Samad on his cricketing journey thus far
Abdul Samad rose through the ranks, playing gully cricket with his brother before he enrolled himself in the MA Stadium Coaching Centre. You ask him about how his cricketing journey has panned out thus far, Samad replies with a wry smile when he says that it all started with playing cricket with his brother in a Mohalla.
“The journey has been quite good. I started playing cricket in the street [Mohalla, smiles!] with my brother. After that, I shifted to MA Stadium Coaching Centre and trained under Sports Council’s Cricket Coach, Randhir Singh Manhas and his assistant Raman Thaploo. I gave U14 trials and got selected in 2012 and then went on to play U16 and U19,” Abdul Samad said in an exclusive interview with CricTracker.
Abdul’s father, who is a physical education teacher, was himself an outstanding Volleyball player and also played as a bowling all-rounder at the club level. Seeing his son’s penchant towards playing cricket, he took Abdul to the MA Stadium Coaching Centre. And, the youngster hasn’t forgotten the kind of support his parents had provided him during his initial years as a budding cricketer.
“My parents supported me a lot during my initial days. They always allowed me to move to different cities, which I had to do frequently for training, as there weren’t adequate conditions in Jammu & Kashmir,” Samad said.
The knock that changed Samad’s life and first-ever interaction with Irfan Pathan
Abdul has been a consistent scorer at both U14 and U19 levels. The all-rounder even scored a couple of half-centuries and claimed a couple of five-wicket hauls during the U19 national event. But, it was his knock during one of the trail games for J&K last year which turned out to be the career-changing moment for the youngster.
So impressed was Irfan Pathan to see a youngster grit it out on a tough wicket that he immediately decided to support Abdul Samad in realizing his ultimate dream. Samad vividly remembers that knock and those words of wisdom that his mentor Irfan Pathan gave him during their first interaction.
“That track was a bit tough to bat on. That was the time of winters, and the surface was very dry. I batted well and when he [Irfan Pathan] came and saw me playing, he was very impressed at what he saw and gave me a chance to play.” He just told me one thing. “Be focussed always. Trying to make big runs and always think big.” the 18-year-old added.
Jammu and Kashmir, ever since the abrogation of Article 370 and 35 [A] has seen a lockdown of communication in the past few months. And, with lockdown and curfew in most of the regions, it was difficult for Abdul Samad and his team to practice ahead of the Ranji Trophy season. Enter Mentor Irfan Pathan, who proceeded to shift their camp to Baroda. “Irfan bhai shifted the camp from Kashmir and Baroda. So, it really helped a lot, and the whole team practiced there,” added Samad.
Samad, on being a nightmare for the spin bowlers and his favourite cricketers
Abdul Samad is one of those rare set of batsmen who is a pretty handy wrist-spinner too. This is something that impressed Irfan Pathan noticed when he first saw him. When asked on which facet of the game he likes to focus more, Samad has a one-line answer as he is pretty clear on one thing. He wants to be a 3-dimensional cricketer, and he focused on improving in each facet of the game equally.
“I focus on each aspect of my game” adds a confident Samad. He has a penchant for hitting big sixes. He likes to dominate bowlers from the outset and has all the classical shots in the book. And, no wonder why all of his favourite players are stroke-makers.
“All the stroke-makers are my favourite like Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, Andre Russell. From childhood, I have always played aggressive cricket, and that is my style of play” the 18-year-old revealed. Abdul first shot into limelight when he smoked a whirlwind 52-ball 68 against Gujarat in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2019-20 season.
The all-rounder smoked seven sixes against the likes of Piyush Chawla and Axar Patel. He did an encore of it against Jharkhand in J&K’s Round 04 Ranji Trophy encounter where he stroked as many as 11 sixes against the likes of Shahbaz Nadeem in a pulsating knock of 75-ball 128. When asked about the reason why he is good against the spinners, Samad was quick to say that he is equally good against the fast bowlers.
“I play both medium-pacers and spinners comfortably. But, this was a low-bounce wicket, hence I wasn’t able to play the medium pacers on the up. I was playing the fast bowlers down the ground and the spinners were giving flight, so I attacked them, and thankfully, all the shots connected well.”
Abdul Samad’s reaction on bagging an elusive IPL contract
Coming from a place like Jammu and Kashmir, where opportunities are at a premium, bagging an IPL contract for any cricketer is a colossal achievement. It is something so big that at times there is a danger of losing a talented cricketer to the off-field distraction that the IPL brings with itself. But Samad is not the one to get carried away with all this.
He, as his mentor Irfan had advised him, thinks about the bigger picture and although he is happy with the IPL contract, all his focus has now shifted towards performing for his side, as and when he gets a chance. “I was happy at that time. My family too was very happy but I am more focussed now on performing when I get a chance. SRH has a lot of big players like David Warner, and I will be looking to seek his advice.”
When asked as to whether he received any message from the SRH think-tank, following his selection in the IPL Auction, Samad reminisced about the message that VVS Laxman had sent him in its aftermath. “Laxman bhai messaged me, “Congratulations, All the best and I looking forward to working with you”,” Samad revealed.
Samad attended trials for MI, RR apart from SRH
Abdul Samad was called for the trials ahead of the auctions by Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals as well apart from Sunrisers Hyderabad. Samad recalled that while his trails for the Mumbai Indians did not go well, the stint with the Royals was fruitful as he stoked 4-5 sixes besides bowling really well.
“I gave trail of Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals. Mumbai Indians’ trial wasn’t good. But for Rajasthan, I played really well there. I hit 4-5 sixes and also bowled pretty well.” he said. However, it was his stint with SRH that not only proved to be a clincher but also where he earned plaudits from the new coach Trevor Bayliss.
“We were chasing a total of 180 runs and when I came into bat we needed around 80 runs off 7 overs. I scored 40 odd runs and remained not-out and Trevor Bayliss praised me. They didn’t say it directly but it was rather an indirect way of them saying – Be ready.”
Bishan Singh Bedi’s encouraging words
Abdul Samad has a mature head on his relatively young shoulders. He knows he needs to work on the mental side of the things, while at the same time, he is pretty clear about his style of play. “I am working on mental preparation that I have to play big innings and score big runs in less number of balls” the youngster says.
And, there is also one other thing that he is pretty clear about. His dream. His main dream is to represent his country, a burning desire that was fueled in him after those immortal words from Bishan Singh Bedi during his U14 days in 2012.
“My main dream is to play for India. I am not that excited (about IPL) because I am more focused on performing when I get a chance. I love this game from the beginning of my career. When I played U14 in 2012, our team mentor was Bishan Singh Bedi sir. He always said that you are one of the guys who’ll make big and play for India. From that time, I have had only one dream, that is to play for my country,” Samad concluded.