Pakpassion caught up with the tall pacer from Bannu as he discussed his career to date and Pakistan's chances at the U19s World Cup.
Full name Irfanullah Shah
Born May 5, 1995, Bannu
Major teams Pakistan Under-19s
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Right-arm medium-fast
Getting into cricket
In the area where I lived as a young child, everyone was really into cricket. After school all the boys would meet up and play in the local park or on the streets. Any wasteland or unused space would be occupied by a game of cricket.
The younger boys would play tennis ball matches and as you got older and better, you’d be “promoted” to compete in local matches where a hard ball was used. I’ve always enjoyed playing cricket and watching cricket right from an early age. The matches we played right from a young age were very competitive. It’s an environment that breeds tough cricket and isn’t for the faint hearted.
I was asked by a friend to attend trials for my school team. Initially I wasn’t sure whether I should attend as I wasn’t too confident about being selected. I wasn’t picked but was put on the reserves list. However one of the boys who was scheduled to play picked up an injury and I was called in at the last minute. I did well in my first match for the school and that was really the starting point of my cricket career. After playing regularly for my school team I then progressed to district cricket and college cricket.
Bannu is the city I was born in. It has no proper cricketing facilities so we just make use of what we can. There is no cricket stadium in Bannu and a lot of the cricketing talent from this area is spotted in district Twenty20 tournaments which are held at the local football stadium.
There are two or three such tournaments held each year and all of the district’s cricketing talent are divided up amongst the teams taking part. Usually there are representatives from departmental teams present at these tournaments as they look to sign up some of the best players. There are also district and regional coaches present overseeing proceedings and looking for young cricketers that they feel they can work with and develop. Bannu is now under FATA region and this region is really producing a lot of fast bowling talent.
District and Regional Cricket
After doing well in school cricket, I was picked for the District under 16 team after impressing at trials and then subsequently picked for the District Under 19 team. The natural progression then is to move up to regional cricket and I have played for Abbottabad Under 19s in the national Under 19 national competition.
I’ve signed up with one of Pakistan’s top departmental teams ZTBL. As yet I’ve not played for their first team but have been representing their Under 19 team. It’s a very professional set up compared to what I have been used to. The coaching is very good, the training more intense and there’s a lot of good advice available on nutrition and on technical aspects of the game. In my first season in the departmental Under 19 competition I was the leading wicket taker with 63 wickets. I’m hoping that I can make my way into the ZTBL first team next season.
The last time I was measured I was 6 foot 4”. I don't think I've grown since then.
I was involved in a motorcycle accident and injured my foot last year. It was shortly before Pakistan Under 19’s tour of England and unfortunately I had to miss that tour. It was a tour that I was really looking forward to but as luck would have it, I had to take medical advice and rest the injury.
Tri Series in the UAE
I was pleased with my efforts in the tri series against UAE and England. I felt I bowled quite well and the series really boosted my confidence ahead of the Under 19 World Cup. I wasn’t part of the Asia Cup squad as the selectors decided beforehand that some players would be rested for the Asia Cup. It’s one of those things that you want to play all of the time but it’s understandable that the selectors want to try out as many players as possible.
Mohammad Asif. I know he’s had some problems over the years, but he was a fantastic bowler. Asif was a real magician with the ball, a bowler who was so skilful with the new ball and the old ball. He really had that ability to work out batsmen and was quick to assess what the batsmen’s weaknesses were. By watching videos of his bowling, you can learn so much about the art of bowling.
I’m fortunate enough to have the height advantage and can extract bounce from most surfaces. I’m also able to seam and swing the ball and have been working with my coaches particularly on reverse swing. At my age there are still so many areas to work on and develop as a bowler but fortunately I feel that the basics are there and it’s a question of developing myself and pushing myself to improve.
Under 19 World Cup
I feel we have a very good chance of lifting the World Cup. We have a very good all round squad and confidence is high. We have three matches against Afghanistan Under 19s coming up in the next few days in Lahore and that is good preparation.
The conditions in UAE will suit us and I’m confident that we can achieve our goal and win the prestigious World Cup. Pakistan has a rich tradition in this tournament and I hope that we can come back to Pakistan with the trophy.