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Twenty year old allrounder Bilawal Bhatti has already earned high praise from the former Pakistan batsman Basit Ali. Speaking to PakPassion.net, Bilawal explained how he got interested in cricket, who his cricketing heroes were, talked of his hopes for the future and much more.

By Saj Sadiq (3 December 2011)

Twenty year old Bilawal Bhatti has already earned high praise from his coach at SNGPL, the former Pakistan batsman Basit Ali, who stated in a recent interview with PakPassion.net that “Bilawal can bowl around 140 kph, he hits the deck hard and he can swing the ball both ways. He is 5’10” and I feel this boy should be able to get into the [national] team very soon if he keeps working hard." Basit also stated in that interview that he felt that Bilawal and Raza Hasan should both have been selected for the ongoing tour to Bangladesh.

Speaking to PakPassion.net Bilawal explained how he got interested in cricket, who his cricketing heroes were, talked of his hopes for the future and much more.

"I've always had a passion and desire to play cricket. I started playing cricket in school in 8th grade in Muridke. There were trials for the school team and I went for the trials and thankfully got selected. I was also playing a lot of tape ball cricket around that time and then I joined a local cricket club in Muridke. You could say I was cricket crazy and still am. In fact I was so much into my cricket that my studies were suffering due to it."

"I come from the same town as Imran Nazir and Qaiser Abbas and actually played for the same club as Imran Nazir which was Muridke Gymkhana. My cricket apprenticeship continued at Gujranwala district where I played district level cricket, before I moved onto playing Under 19 cricket for Sialkot."

"I was first spotted by former Pakistan batsman Shahid Anwar while I was playing a match for Muridke. Shahid (Anwar) was the coach at Sialkot region and he recommended me to Sialkot region Under 19s. Anwar took me under his wing and really supported me and helped in my early development as a cricketer."

"In my first season at Sialkot Under 19s, the Pakistan Cricket Board introduced a ruling that three cricketers from each under 19 team should be promoted to first class cricket. In that season I had taken 52 wickets at Under 19 level for Sialkot and was one of the three best performers, so I was promoted to first class cricket for Sialkot."

"I made my first class debut in February 2009 at the age of 17 and took four for 87 against Lahore Ravi. I played a season for Sialkot, then moved onto State Bank and I have this season moved to SNGPL."

Bhatti then explained the reasons behind his move to SNGPL where he has made an instant impact with bat and ball. "I was playing for Sialkot against SNGPL and I bowled well against them. In that match I bowled one of the quickest spells of my career and impressed the opposition. Mohammad Hafeez came over after the game and had a chat with me about perhaps moving to SNGPL in future. It was very flattering for Hafeez to come over and speak to me about a move to SNGPL. As luck would have it though I moved to State Bank next season and then eventually moved to SNGPL this season."

"I'm a bowling all rounder. Right arm medium fast bowler and middle order batsman. This season I feel things have gone really well due to the help of team mates and particularly the SNGPL coach Basit Ali. Basit is of course a very experienced cricketer and has great knowledge of cricket. He has helped me in all aspects of my game and it is a pleasure working with someone like Basit."

Bhatti then spoke of his pace and stated "My speed was measured a couple of years ago at an average of 134kph at the Under 19 regional academy. I was recorded as the fastest at that academy. Since then I have not had my speed measured but I feel that I am stronger and quicker now than I was two years ago. Those that are facing me and playing alongside me feel that I am regularly clocking 140kph plus."

Bhatti has taken 44 wickets in 9 matches at an average of just over 16 apiece in the ongoing Quaid E Azam Trophy and described his bowling style and spoke of his cricketing heroes. "I'm a skiddy pace bowler who can swing and seam the ball around. I always admired Imran Khan as an all rounder and watched videos of him as a child. He has been an inspiration to so many Pakistani cricketers. In fast bowling terms my favouite quick bowler was Waqar Younis. In addition I was a huge fan of Andrew Flintoff, I loved watching him play cricket. I was really sad when he retired from cricket as I loved the way Flintoff played cricket and how competitive he was."

In addition Bhatti has 266 runs at an average of just under 30 this season, including a maiden first class century and added "My batting style is that I like to go for my strokes, but I am not a slogger. I like to feel bat on ball and have a wide array of strokes, but I feel I am a proper batsman, not just a hitter."

Regarding overseas tours, Bhatti featured in the Pakistan squad last year for the Asian Games in China and stated "Khalid Latif was the captain for that competition. It was a great experience playing in China and I did quite well out there."

Bhatti's future appears to be a bright one and his level headed attitude means that he wants to take things one step at a time. However, the desire to play for his country is already evident

"My aim, like every first class cricketer out there, is to play for my country. But before I do that, I want to establish myself as a first class cricketer - perform well in first class cricket, as I have been improving steadily over the last couple of seasons, then hopefully get selected for "A" tours and then hopefully represent my country.