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Hussain Talat spoke about his struggle to adjust from the Under 19 level to the more competitive domestic level, his experience of playing alongside top names such as Misbah-ul-Haq and Azhar Ali in the SNGPL team and his aspirations to be recognised as a pace bowling all-rounder for the Pakistan team in the future.
 
By Amir Husain (28th January, 2017)
 
The current malaise which has afflicted Pakistan cricket has resulted in calls for reforms of the domestic system and questions are being raised about the quality of cricketers being produced by such a system.

The alleged scarcity of talent at the domestic level is worrying as many of Pakistan’s tried and tested cricketers approach the end of their shelf life. The composition of Pakistan teams in all formats is another hot topic at the moment and the lack of a fast-bowling all-rounder has also been cited as a reason for the team's drop in form in all formats.

Whilst it is difficult to say what the future will bring for Pakistan’s cricket fortunes, it is indeed encouraging to see the promise of future greatness in the form of the twenty-year-old Hussain Talat who is lighting up the scene at the domestic level. 

In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Hussain spoke about his struggle to adjust from the Under 19 level to the more competitive domestic level, his experience of playing alongside top names such as Misbah-ul-Haq and Azhar Ali in the SNGPL team, hopes of good performances in the upcoming Pakistan Super League and his aspirations to be recognised as a pace bowling all-rounder for the Pakistan team in the future.
 
Like many others before him, the move from Under 19 level to domestic cricket is something Talat found tougher than he expected, especially as he had been a top performer at the Under 19 level. Although the learning curve was a steep one, the outcome after an initial period of adjustment was excellent as he stated, “I was regarded as a shining light at Under 19 level, but what people have to remember is that the jump from Under 19 cricket to domestic cricket is a huge one and it sometimes takes time to adjust to that level, but I'm happy with my improvements this season and it bodes well for the future. I would say that initially I found the jump from Under 19 cricket to First-class cricket a big one, but now after a couple of seasons in First-class cricket I have found my feet and I'm satisfied with my statistics such as a List A batting average of over 47. It takes time to adjust to domestic cricket in Pakistan as conditions are tough and the pitches are difficult to bat on.”

To be able to play in a team with some top international stars would be a dream come true for any youngster which is exactly what Talat is experiencing in his stay with the SNGPL team, where the opportunities to learn and embellish one’s game in such distinguished company are literally endless.

“I feel that I am in good hands at SNGPL, playing alongside the likes of Misbah-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali and Mohammad Hafeez. Playing departmental cricket in Pakistan is very tough as the standard is very high. I've been at SNGPL now for a few years and I would say that I have learnt a lot and have steadily improved as a cricketer.” 

The lure of fast-paced cricket played under intense pressure is a good way to judge the quality of up and coming players. The National One-Day Cup for Departments and Regions thus represented an ideal training ground for someone like Hussain Talat. However, what has made the current edition of the premier One-Day tournament very special for Talat is the fact that he has been allowed to play in both editions of the tournament as he explained, “In this season's One-Day Cup, each of the regional teams have been allowed to select five guest players from departments to represent them and I was lucky enough to have been picked by FATA region as well as playing for SNGPL. Conditions have been very tough in the One-Day Cup for regions as the pitches have been very damp and difficult to bat on especially for the top order batsmen.”

The enthusiasm to learn and improve oneself speaks volumes about any player’s future and if Hussain Talat’s batting performances in the 2016/2017 National One-Day Cup where he scored over three-hundred runs is any indicator, Pakistan cricket may have a great future prospect at their beck and call. 

“I feel that I have really improved this season in domestic cricket and I've made two centuries against some very good bowlers like Mohammad Sami, Sadaf Hussain, Sohail Khan, Sohail Tanvir and Mohammad Asghar. I feel that the reason for my good performances this season is that I have been mentally prepared much better and my focus has also been very good. Credit must go to my senior team mates and coaching staff at SNGPL who have been very supportive. I have really reaped the benefits of a few seasons in domestic cricket and settling into what is required at this level of cricket.”

In a recent interview, Pakistan Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq bemoaned the lack of a fast-bowling all-rounder who could provide relief to the specialist bowlers and be a viable wicket-taking option for the captain as well. Hussain Talat with twenty-two First-class wickets would like to fit the bill for such an option in the future but as he is keenly aware, he must take on this role with seriousness and work hard to achieve a high level of performance, especially after a change in action due to injury.

“It's wrong to assume that I am not taking my bowling very seriously. I feel that I am still an all-rounder who takes all facets of the game very seriously. I believe that I am a genuine batting all-rounder. What happened with my bowling was that I suffered a stress-fracture in the Under 19 World Cup in 2014 in UAE and that set me back. I then had to go through a rehabilitation process with the PCB medical staff and then I had to re-model my bowling action. But now I'm back and bowling again and without any problems.”

The advent of the Pakistan Super League in 2016 was a much-needed shot in the arm for the Pakistan domestic game in terms of the opportunities for fame and professional growth that it offered to the local players. For young players like Hussain Talat, the PSL concept presents the best chance to showcase their talent. Whilst as a supplementary player for Islamabad United he could not get any games in 2016, he is looking forward to working with some top names in the 2017 edition. 

“The Pakistan Super League was a great learning opportunity for me last year. I was a supplementary player for Islamabad but this year I am part of their squad. To get the chance to work with Wasim Akram and Dean Jones was fantastic and to share a dressing room with Shane Watson, Andre Russell and Brad Haddin was brilliant. I hope to get a chance this time around in the PSL and show that I can perform at the highest level. I hope I have a big PSL this time around. The PSL is a high-profile tournament and a big target for me and after that I hope that the selectors give me a chance for Pakistan 'A' and then if I do well for Pakistan ‘A’ to receive an opportunity for Pakistan.”

The disappointment of series losses in New Zealand and Australia has led to some overly pessimistic pronouncements regarding the future of Pakistan cricket. Thankfully in the talent of players such as Hussain Talat, there is a silver lining to look forward to. Whilst the road is a tough one, Hussain Talat’s attitude shows sufficient promise for a brighter future for Pakistan cricket, “Pakistan cricket needs a pace-bowling all-rounder and I feel that if I continue to develop as a cricketer and work hard and get the opportunities then I can become the all-rounder that Pakistan needs. My performances are there across all formats and I hope for a chance perhaps for Pakistan ‘A’ initially and then who knows, maybe for the senior team”, he concluded.