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Friday, 27 February 2015
Farhan Saeed's skills continue to inspire
Farhan Saeed continues to inspire cricketers and sport fans around the world
Pakistani bowler a shining example of cricket truly being a sport for all people
Tales of triumph over adversity are a dime a dozen in contemporary sport, but the story of Pakistani Farhan Saeed brings all others into perspective.
A victim of polio as a two-year-old, Saeed has lived his life with a left leg that has been of little use to him; instead, he relies on a crutch for mobility, and incredibly, to perform the task for which he possesses a burning passion: bowling.
Like the legendary Shoaib Akhtar, the man who inspired him to pursue the craft originally, Saeed hurtles in from a long run, crutch propelling him along the way, and delivers the ball with all the menace he can muster.
And just like the deliveries of the Rawalpindi Express, Saeed’s offerings since his debut with Pakistan’s national physical disability team have turned heads in their own right.
“The first time Pakistan’s disabled cricket team played international series was in 2012 against England in the UAE,” said Mohammad Nizam, the side’s media manager and joint-secretary of PDCA.
“Many high-profile people of cricket, including the former ICC Chief Haroon Lorgat and the former PCB Chairman Zaka Ashraf, were present at the venue when Farhan Saeed delivered first ball.
“Everyone’s eyes became wet on seeing him bowl for the first time. If you see videos of his bowling action it is really unbelievable and it is rare to find such talent.”
Saeed himself says his miraculous bowling action – which once garnered him 5-22 in a five-over spell – was honed on the streets of Pakistan and prospered from the prayers of his parents.
“I haven’t learned it from anyone,” he told cricket.com.au. “I have done everything of my own.
“During the days of street cricket, my friends used to wonder how I would bowl like a proper bowler so they suggested me to do away with the run up and chuck the ball.
“But I was keen to bowl with a run up and over-arm action rather than doing the spot bowling so I kept trying it with overarm style and when I finally learned it many people, including some first-class cricketers, suggested me to continue with it.
“Most of the batsmen find it difficult to bat against me. They come to me after the match telling how confusing it was for them to play against me.
“It is all due my parents’ prayers and my passion for the game that I bowl so well.”
That passion was also fuelled by a meeting with none other than Shoaib – one that turned out somewhat differently to what both bowlers may have expected.
“I have met nearly all players of the Pakistan’s national cricket team,” Saeed smiled.
“Shoaib was quite impressed to see me bowling, so much so that after the meeting I read in a newspaper him saying, ‘I went to give tips to a bowler who was on crutches, but after seeing his control on line and length I myself learned many things from him and I urge other bowlers to learn from him’.”
Saeed believes he has developed considerably since being welcomed into the fold of the Pakistan Disabled Cricket Association (PDCA), an organisation that is gathering momentum thanks to recent financial support and media recognition.
“A lot of people get amazed when they see me playing,” he said. “They wonder at my confidence on bowling with the stick (crutch).
“They usually get concerned when they watch me running as they fear I will lose balance and fall over but I have never felt that way.
“When I used to play on the roads and streets, I was prone to losing balance and slipped many times.
“Now I have been part of the disabled team since 2007 and not even once I felt like losing balance or felt the stick getting slipped.
“The members of PDCA – President Saleem Karim, Secretary Amiruddin Ansari, joint-secretary Mohammad Nizam – have instilled lot of confidence and passion in me and made me believe that I can do things which sometimes a normal person can’t.
“I am very thankful to all the people at PDCA who have treated me like a family member.”
Nizam believes the future of disabled cricket on an international scale is promising, with other countries – including Australia – also looking to develop greater awareness.
“We are not paying these players at the moment but we bear all the expenses of their travelling, accommodation, clothes, sports gear etcetera when they come to play,” he said.
“In future we plan to introduce central contracts for them so they are paid regularly.
“But most of these players are settled. They have jobs at government or private sector. One of our players, Jahanzeb Tiwana, is a law graduate and about to become civil judge.
“This Cricket is getting popular day by day as, after England, now Afghanistan’s team has also stepped in and we have heard there is work going on in Australia as well.
“I hope when more teams get developed the International Cricket Council (ICC) will also play its role in this cricket. ICC’s role is necessary to make this sort of Cricket flourish.
“Moreover, media has played a major role in making this cricket popular all over the world. I must say the things we have achieved in seven, eight years could have been hard to achieve even in 15 years without media.”
With the current World Cup taking centre stage globally in the sport, there is only one thing Saeed would like to see more than a Pakistan victory – and that’s a World Cup for cricketers with a physical disability in which he and his teammates can represent their country.
“Yes, there should be a World Cup for disabled cricketers just like there is one among the national teams at international level,” he added.
“There is a World Cup for blind cricketers as well so we also want to play in a such a world tournament, it will be give us more chances to excel and represent our countries at international level.”
While Australia does not currently have an official Physical Disability Cricket Association like Pakistan’s, Cricket Australia continues to work hard to help promote cricket as a sport for all.
“Farhan’s story is incredible and he is a great ambassador for all abilities cricket. At an Australian level since launching the National All Abilities Strategy in November last year we are making significant progress in our efforts to be a sport for all. A practical example of this is the inaugural All Abilities Championships we are about to hold in March” said CA’s Senior Manager - Community Engagement, Sam Almaliki.
The 2015 All Abilities Championships consists of two divisions, the Inas International Cricket Series for cricketers with an intellectual disability played between Australia and England and the Blind Cricket national championships. Both divisions are being held in Melbourne between Tuesday 17th and 24th March.
In addition to that, CA are also hosting a Blind Cricket and Deaf Cricket Exhibition match and a come and try day, targeted at kids with a disability on Monday March 16 at Fitzroy Doncaster Cricket Club
The Championships align with Cricket Australia’s All Abilities Cricket Strategy which aims to double participation of people with a disability by 2018.
The Inas International Cricket Series, which involves four 40-over games and two Twenty20 matches will provide the Australian team with the chance to win the division’s top prize against their traditional rivals.