If domestic first-class cricket is said to be the final frontier to international cricket, Tabish Khan would perhaps call it a lie. For the Karachi speedster, resilience and performances in the domestic circuit have never meant much.
He has turned 35. His country has looked past him. He debuted in the Quaid-e-Azam competition in 2001-02, and to date, not one selector has contacted him for a green cap.
He has been topping the bowling charts in first-class cricket for six years before last season.
Tabish Khan's tale is one of sheer hard work and resilience. Eighteen years of unrelenting determination and eighteen years of ignorance have only made the man stronger.
In the eyes of the selectors, he may have been one of the many still his records set him a class apart.
He is one of the fewest in his country to take over 500 wickets in first-class cricket. He has taken a whooping 574 wickets in just 130 first-class games.
His strike-rate of 45.8 is best among any Pakistani fast bowler playing first-class cricket. More importantly, at 35, he has been a veteran for Karachi and department cricket in Pakistan.
One of Tabish's misfortunes was perhaps his lack of consistency in the T-20 cricket, which unfortunately has become for bench-mark for Pakistan's national team selection.
The over-emphasis on white-ball players have badly hurt players' like Tabish Khan, who is a beast in red-ball cricket. A single season in the PSL has not helped him either.
Still, for a team, which was No.1 in Test rankings not too long ago, Tabish Khan deserved a place. At 35, Tabish hopes for one last swan-song, a chance to play for Pakistan.
He said in an interview in 2018 with ARY Sports...
Misbah Ul Haq and Younis Khan are prime examples of that who played till their 40’s and were still super fit. As long as you are fit and concentrating on your game, it automatically prolongs the career, age is just a number as long as you are fit.
While it is true that age is just a number, it is also worth remembering that both Misbah and Younis were batsmen.
Tabish Khan is a fast-bowler.
Injuries, bad form, and finally, age is often a massive determinant to a fast-bowler starting an international career after thirty.
When the Pakistan Cricket Board decided to revamp the domestic cricket structure last season and prepare batting-friendly wickets, many expected Tabish Khan to find it hard.
Before last season, the expert circles were skeptical and believed that the pitches helped medium-pacers, bowling with the duke ball. However, Tabish proved all his skeptics wrong.
In last year's Quaid-e-Azam trophy, Tabish Khan finished as the highest wicket-taking fast-bowler and fifth on the overall list, with twenty-five scalps.
As luck would have it, teenage speedsters - Naseem Shah and Mohammad Musa- were selected ahead of him in Misbah Ul Haq's first red-ball assignment in Australia.
Nothing changed during the England tour as well. It is remarkable that under the last two Chief selectors -- Inzamam ul Haq and Misbah ul Haq, perhaps two of the best cricketing minds in Pakistan at the moment, Tabish Khan did not get a single opportunity.
It just seems as if no one is interested in this man, who even, at this age, continues to turn up for first-class cricket every season.
Let alone his performances as a fast-bowler, his determination and passion for the game should have been enough to earn him a call-up.
What is more shameful for the PCB is that while they hasten to bring Mohammad Amir back to Test cricket, only to see him retire in four years, they fail to acknowledge the grit and determination of Tabish Khan.
Pakistan may be lost in the razzmatazz of PSL and emerging prodigies like Naseem Shah, Haider Ali, and Mohammad Musa. However, they for one, will surely miss out on a passionate, dedicated, and relentless cricketer as Tabish Khan.Published 07 Nov 2020, 01:22 IST