India call-up no longer a distant dream for Nadeem

Shahbaz Nadeem appears to have been around for ages but is still only 27. His tally of wickets in first class cricket is pretty hefty too – 307 to be precise.

Jharkhand’s surge in recent times – the side reached the Ranji semifinals last season – also meant Nadeem has got noticed. He is now a part of the India ‘A’ team to South Africa.   -  SPORTZPICS

Shahbaz Nadeem appears to have been around for ages but is still only 27. His tally of wickets in first class cricket is pretty hefty too – 307 to be precise.

And his attention-grabbing 51 and 56 scalps for Jharkhand in the Ranji Trophy over the last two seasons make him one of the prime contenders for a spot in the Indian team as a left-arm spinner.

In fact, growing up in Muzaffarpur, Nadeem wanted to emulate left-arm pace bowling great Wasim Akram. “But I was thin and frail and my coach cleverly said I should first start bowling spin and could switch to pace when I became stronger. I remained a spinner,” Nadeem said to Sportstar here on Thursday.

In the city to take part in the TNCA first division league – Nadeem represents Nelson – he said, “I want to bowl a lot of overs in various conditions.”

His rather interesting career took off when his father, a cop, was transferred to Dhanbad. Precociously talented for someone so young, Nadeem made his Ranji debut for Jharkhand aged only 15 against Kerala at Jamshedpur.

Another youngster, M.S. Dhoni kept wickets. “Even then he spoke little, was calm, competed hard, and shouted instructions from behind the wickets,” Nadeem said.

Nadeem also recalled a piece of advice from Dhoni from that game. “I was bowling round-the-wicket to a left-hander, bowling at his pads and Dhoni said, ‘Why don’t you bowl at him from over-the-wicket, target the rough.’ I did that and got the batsman caught behind.”

Having bowled at several formidable batsmen over the years, Nadeem rates V.V.S. Laxman as the toughest. “I bowled to him outside the off-stump and he cover-drove me to the boundary. I then bowled the same delivery to him with two covers and he drove me through mid-wicket to the fence.”

An admirer of former New Zealand left-armer Daniel Vettori for his “control and variety,” Nadeem believes in “flighting the ball and bringing in subtle variations.” The arm-ball has served him well.

Jharkhand’s surge in recent times – the side reached the Ranji semifinals last season – also meant Nadeem has got noticed. He is now a part of the India ‘A’ team to South Africa.

An India call-up is no longer a distant dream for this crafty bowler.