I am ready to play for India, says Shahbaz Nadeem
The leading wicket-taker across two consecutive seasons is not close to the national call-up but is hungry and willing to work even harder.
Throughout the times we have adored the superlative strength of mankind and have revered the people who have displayed heroism owing to their potency and accomplishment. However, often during these times, there are people who go through the grind without ever being noticed, often with secret suffering, perhaps even knowing that once again their efforts will slip under the radar.
These are the unsung heroes, people who shrug aside all the oblivion and bear the brunt all over again. Lanky Jharkhand spinner, Shahbaz Nadeem ticks all these boxes perfectly. He has been the leading wicket-taker in 2 successive Ranji seasons and yet is no close to national reckoning.
He knows that his name always does the rounds whenever there is a meeting of the selectors and immediately thereafter, hopes are rekindled. And then, there is the news that he does not make it.
"Performances in Ranji Trophy are no less of an accomplishment, but yes, I believe that the national call-up is my next biggest hurdle. I want to play for my country, this is my biggest motivation and especially after I have put in the hard yards in the dirt of the domestic circuit. Of course, it is frustrating, but then there is only so much in my hands,” Nadeem told Sportskeeda.
The Indian team is about to enter the last phase of this long home season and before every series, the Jharkhand boy is hopeful of a phone call. However, the best he could get all season is a call-up for the India A side to take on Bangladesh.
“I am ready for the India call-up and believe my game is suited for the International level. I have played at all levels and have performed consistently. The only obstacle I have to cross is getting the Indian cap. I still have hope since I have age on my side and all I can is hope and keep on performing. Someday luck will surely shine on me, that coveted Indian cap will always drive me,” Nadeem adds.
Often, communication is the biggest problem when it comes to selection issues, but Nadeem believes that he has always been informed about the decision.
“The selectors sit down with me and tell me not to lose hope and to just focus on my game and according to them, my chance will come. There are senior players in the side and I recognise this fact. I just have to keep doing what I am doing right now. Only my performances are in my hand.”
The diminutive spinner has been a seasoned campaigner in the domestic circuit and this journey started at a very tender age. The roots can be traced back to Dhanbad, a small town in Jharkhand.
“Initially I wanted to be a fast bowler but my coach back home advised me to ditch this and pursue left-arm spin and thus this entire journey started. Schooling structure was very good and cricket and studies went hand-in-hand. I received a call-up that very year and was a part of the Under-16 squad where I was the standby”.
This sojourn had only just begun and it was in 2004-05 when he received his first call for the Jharkhand Ranji side.
“MS Dhoni was part of the team when I made my debut and the entire atmosphere was full of energy. I was 15 years old and was guided by the seniors. Slowly I got a hang of things, learnt how to read the pitches and vary the pace. Well, when you start off you think you know everything but the learning process never ends. I am still learning.”
The young man was given captaincy at a time when Jharkhand was not an established team and there were many players who fizzled out under pressure and his work was cut-out.
“My main job as a captain was to inspire the younger players. The senior players are anyways motivated, but it is the youngsters who need a pep talk and constant guiding. As a captain that was my main concern and all wanted was to extract best possible performance out of them. This has been mantra till date as I am an experienced player now but always carve out time for the younger lot.”
Nadeem has always wanted to learn more and looks to improve his game. This is where he believes the Indian Premier League has played a major role in shaping his career.
“IPL is a big platform for younger players as you are in front of the wide world and your performances are noticed by everyone. People started recognising me as the left-arm spinner from Jharkhand and this was a big boost to my confidence.”
“The best part about the IPL is that you get to interact with the established international stars and get to pick their brains. I was once bowling to Kevin Pietersen and was in the midst of a great spell in the nets and this is why he believed that I could play for India. I also remember the interaction I had with Mahela Jayawardene and the inputs he gave me which has helped me immensely in my career.”
Right through the conversation, it was very heartening to see the tonality of Nadeem. The man has not yet given up and still believes he can make it. He has taken all these obstacles in his stride and continues to march on.
He is thrilled with the performance of Jharkhand this year and says that this season has been one of the most satisfying moments of his career. It is only when you take pride in your little accomplishments can you look ahead at greater things and Nadeem is a testament to this theory.
“My biggest motivation has always been my family and it is their aspiration and belief that our son will one day play for the country. This is enough for me as I have to keep trying to get through. I have to play for India and this is not only for me but in many ways life would come to a full circle for my family too."