Green Team Exclusive
Talent is God-given and in order to be a successful sportsman, you must have talent. Cricket is a very cruel game where so many cricketers who are full of talent do not even get a chance. Yasir Arafat a Pakistani all-rounder who makes his debut alongside Pakistan’s top test cricketer Younus Khan. But unlike Younus Khan, he did not get many chances. Yasir Arafat in his recent interview with Green Team narrated that
“I am not the one who likes to play cricket. My two brothers were in the Army and my father was retired from Pakistan Air force. His father was the one who wants me to play cricket.”
Further Yasir added that He was 8 years old when his father asked him to do Yoga alongside him [It helps the body to be flexible]. He also took admission in the Karate club and it was difficult for an 8 years old kid to learn the art of karate. When he was asked about how he started to play cricket he replied that
“I was 10 years old when my father took me to the ground. During the months of June and July when the weather in Pakistan is very hot. After coming back from school and having lunch; I went to the ground and used to play cricket until the sunset.”
Yasir Arafat got selected for under fifteen World Cup team where Pakistan played a final match against India at Lords’ Cricket Ground. Yasir Arafat played his ODI debut match against Sri Lanka at Rawalpindi cricket stadium where he took the wicket of Sanath Jayasuriya. He told Green Team that he did not have words to describe his feelings when he took his wicket.
“My father and my entire family was happier than me”.
Unfortunately, Pakistan lost that game and Yasir was dropped from the team straight after his debut game. He got very few chances to play for his country. In 2001 he got the wicket of Mahela Jayawardene. He was a regular part of domestic cricket where he performed very well and he was the player of the tournament back in 2001/02.
“I only bowled 17 overs in ODI cricket since from my debut till 2005”
Yasir Arafat played his debut test against India at Bengaluru stadium where he took 5 wickets on debut. But unfortunately, he did not get many chances to prove his worth at a higher level of cricket.
“Younus Khan came to me said look you already have 3 wickets and it’s a chance to take fifer against the best batting line of the world and that too on the flat pitch”
This showed the leadership qualities of the great Younis Khan. He was the part of team Pakistan in the world cup 2007, champions trophy 2006, World T20 2007, 2009, and 2012. Yasir Arafat played a lot of county cricket and league cricket. He is one of the best bowlers in T20 cricket. In 2006, Mushtaq Ahmed and Rana Naveed [former Pakistani players] were playing for Sussex county. When Rana Naveed got selected for the National team and Sussex was looking for his replacement.
“I got a call from Mushtaq Ahmed and said that come to New Castle as our coach wants to see you”
Yasir went to London and there He visited Sussex county. Coach asked him to bowl where he bowled 5 balls and he was then selected for the Sussex county team. He was asked about the unique record he held in the 2005-06 season of Quaid-e-Azam trophy which he took 5 wickets in 6 balls across two innings. This feat is also achieved by three other players. On this question, Yasir replied:
“The match was in Rawalpindi and back then our first-class structure was that Islamabad and Rawalpindi used to play together. If you take a look at our bowling line up, we had Azhar Mahmood, Rao Iftikhar, me, and maybe Sohail Tanvir. It happened in the first innings when lower-order batting was going on, and I took two wickets in two balls. I bowled a no-ball on hat-trick ball and the next ball I end up taking another wicket and again I picked up another wicket and it happened as that I picked up 4 wickets in 5 balls. The innings was ended. I didn’t know that this world record was about to get equal. And I remember that if I went on and I would have picked another wicket at the start of the next innings, I will pick a hat-trick. The first ball was a LBW to Hafeez and all the stats and scorers told me that the record has been equal.”
Following, Yasir was asked about the inaugural 2007 World Twenty20 tournament that was held in South Africa. The group match of India vs Pakistan where Pakistan was chasing India’s 141. Pakistan at one stage was 87-5 in the 15th over, then 103-6 in 17.4 overs. Yasir stood with Misbah and he scored 12* from 5 balls he faced before the game was tied. The tournament’s first-ever “bowl out” happened. Where Pakistan did not strike any wicket while India struck all three wickets. India won as a result. Yasir shares his memories about that particular moment.
“It happened like this; It was Misbah’s comeback. He had already played Tests and ODIs long ago but he was playing again after a long time. He was nervous before the tournament and we used to talk a lot with each other. We were newcomers and both of us were making comebacks. I thought of myself that this could be my last chance. Misbah had a great tournament and he batted well. The match was already out of our grasp and we needed 10-12 an over in two overs. When I came to bat, I hit two boundaries on two balls. The next over, Misbah hit Harbajan (Singh) two sixes to bring the game close. Then Sreesanth came to bowl and he bowled well. The situation was that we needed 1 run in two balls. Unfortunately, the penultimate ball was dot and the last ball Sreesanth hit Misbah on the glove and we ran. But the fielder had the direct hit which the match was tied. We had no idea what was need to do in bowl out and India won.”
Yasir represented Kent in 2007 where he performed outstandingly and took his team to final and won the season. He played in the 2008 season as well; Mushtaq Ahmed had a contract and Yasir’s performance had earned him a lot of reputation as other teams started to ask about him.
“Mushtaq told me that I should sign up with Kent and we did well in the first year as we won the T20 championship. I had the contract for next year and again I had a great performance.”
He even signed for Kolkata Knight Riders in 2009 IPL but due to Pakistan not being eligible to play, he couldn’t play. His county cricket continued. Yasir also has taken two 9-fers in First-Class cricket against State Bank. The bowling line up included Mohammad Irfan, Rahat Ali, and himself. Yasir picked 9 wickets but the 10th wicket was taken by Bilal Asif.
Yasir’s life of playing cricket had come to an end and now he is serving as a coach in county cricket. He was asked about his life in the United Kingdom. Yasir talked about his coaching and he is currently doing level 4, which is the highest qualification, and he believes it will be completed next year.
“I study at a private college in Kent and it’s very historical and got a great set up. They have set me up as a Cricket professional. But now these days due to corona pandemic, I am just spending time with my family. I have a hobby of cooking so sometimes I cook.”
Interestingly, Yasir’s wedding was held in the Oval Cricket Ground. Yasir speaks about that moment.
“I was playing for Surrey in 2011 and it was the end of the season. My wedding was planned by the end of the county season. We won the Lord’s final and we were 4-day champion as well. It happened like this. It was in Lord’s final and the next day was my wedding day. There was a reserve day in case it rains on the final and I thought what if the game just held on my wedding day if it rains. It did rain, only for 30 minutes or so. Rob Key, who has played with me in Kent, he was commentating on Sky. I invited him and he even mentioned during the commentary that tomorrow is Yasir’s wedding and we pray that match finishes today and interestingly Indian Test team was also on their tour; I invited Sourav Ganguly to attend my wedding and he accepted my invitation. Even some English players came to attend.”
Yasir has represented for Perth Scorchers for Big Bash League in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Yasir talks about how his agent called him and told him that whether he was available for Perth Scorchers. Yasir discussed with his father and everything was sorted out. He flew to Australia for his first season in 2013-14. In his first season, he missed only one game due to arriving late.
In his debut BBL games, he took 3-15 in 4 overs while defending a low score of 117 against Melbourne Renegades. He had a great start. He had an injury before the semi-final which saw him ruled out for both knocks out games. Scorchers won their first title in that season while Yasir was the fourth-highest wicket-taker with 12 in 6 matches he represented. Because of this, Yasir was given a contract for next year. For the 2014-15 season, Perth Scorchers won their second consecutive title as they defended their title. Yasir once again had a great tournament. He was the joint second-highest wicket-taker with 15 in 10 matches. Yasir also spoke about Justin Langer:
“I always thought Australians had a rude attitude and all. But when I first met Justin, my point of view on Australians changed. For a guy who represented Australia in 100 Tests, that Australia who ruled the cricketing world for 12 years, that man took care of me well. My mind on them changed completely. I didn’t believe guys like Brett Lee who represented Sydney Sixers and Adam Gilchrist who were commentating were talking to me. These guys welcome you so much. I felt like I was playing with my friends. It was a great experience.”
Yasir also represented Perth Scorchers in the Champions League in 2014 in India. However, due to the visa troubles of Pakistani players, he had difficulties. But he expresses his gratitude to Justin Langer who told the organizers that if they will not provide Yasir the visa, then the whole team will rule themselves out of the tournament. Within hours, Yasir was granted a visa and he left. However, he had another issue. He was granted visas for Mohali but not Chandigarh where the team would be staying. So they denied him. Again, the Perth Scorchers management took the scene. The visa issue was sorted out the next day. He also says that the hotel staff and security were very nice towards him. Yasir praises the confident Justin Langer had given him.
“He used to tell me that my action is wonderful and no one needs to tell you that. He used to tell me that he told others to look at me and my action that how smooth it is and who rhythmical it is and easy. It isn’t injury prone. These words used to give me more confidence when he used to say that it’s like poetry. When a player like Justin who’s such a big player gives you such praise, the career of mine if I want to sum it up, I have to sum it up on these words that when Justin Langer used to talk to me, I was happy.”
When the first Pakistan Super League began, retired players like Shaun Tait and James Allan, who one hardly know about him, played the inaugural season. But Yasir Arafat wasn’t picked by any franchise. Yasir was a regular member of the national T20 games and was Pakistan’s overall leading wicket-taker too. Yasir shared his story.
“Let me start from the beginning. Owners picked management and management picked captains and players. Everybody knew me. I’ve played with them. It’s not like I was unknown. Those who became captains they’ve all played with me from U-19s and tours; they had their opportunity, they carried their own players. They adjusted their own friends and players. But if you put all the stats together like how I was the highest T20 wicket-taker for Pakistan at that time, they were below me. When selection came, they told me they all had a talk with each other and the team was ready. My mindset was that I had performed for every team I have played and I got a contract to play for next season as well. So I thought the same will happen for PSL. But again, it happened that the teams were set and all. During the auction, no one picked me. It was shocking to me. I came back from BBL 2015 as we became champions. I came back from Hamshire we played the finals. This was my performance. You can imagine how things happened in Pakistan and how it is happening right now as well. I was really shocked.”
Yasir rejected an offer from Master Champions League T20, a league where retired players come together to play a league in UAE. Yasir said he rejected because his own country was having its first-ever T20 league and he wanted to play. But unfortunately, for him, it didn’t happen. He says in such case one should set him on fire. From there he had decided that he had enough played cricket and he announced his retirement from all formats.
“Despite my rejection, the Master League sign me up saying it’s ok, we are ready to take you. I went there and played. What I am saying is that the world is letting you play different leagues and all. But despite performances, your own country did not pick you. However, my contact did not happen with MCL because they said when your own league isn’t picking you then why should we? So my playing career ended right there.”
Yasir had mentioned on Younis Khan, that he used to ask why Yasir isn’t given chance. When Younis became captain, he picked Yasir and he gave him confidence.
“During that test series against Sri Lanka where Younis scored 313, I was told that I was being planned to be dropped. Chief selector Marhoom Qadir and Younis Bhai had a stand, telling why should he be dropped when he is coming off from the fine start. Before that was the ODI series, I didn’t play. I was being sidelined. Younis Bhai and Qadir Bhai said that I have performed well. He deserved to play. I played that Karachi match where I scored 50* and picked a solitary wicket. Then the Lahore test happened when terrorists attack and all and I felt my career was over.”
“Then Hafeez was given captaincy. He even had the same mindset that who performs deserves to play. He gave me a comeback in 2012 and took three wickets against Sri Lanka. Then I played against Australia in the UAE and I played only one game where I dismissed Watson and Warner. Afterward, I was 12th man in one game where I was in for Saeed Ajmal where I had run out one batsman via direct hit and then even took a catch where the game was tied. And won through super over. Then I went to Sri Lanka for ICC World T20, where we played till semi-final. 7 wickets were the highest wickets that belong to Saeed Ajmal. He played his complete spells. Me, however, only bowled one over against Bangladesh and three against South Africa here I had two wickets. My T20I ended right here. Then after coming back, Hafeez was dropped from captaincy, and from all the players, I was dropped because someone had to. I was dropped and my career was done. Hafeez came back as captain and he was with media and they asked him in such a way to portrait me as a bad player and they pressured him. My time playing in England should have been my plus point but to our media, it was a negative point.”
Yasir Arafat has represented Pakistan in all forms of cricket. He played 27 international games, scored 260 runs and has taken 29 wickets.
- Interview by: Shahzaib Ali and Sohail Khan
- Report by: Anas Chishty & Syed Waqas
- Edited by: Faizan Hayat Khan
Watch Yasir Arafat’s interview with Green Team by following the link: