Shehzar Mohammad is a 21 year-old PIA wicket-keeper batsman. Hailing from an illustrious cricketing family, he is the grandson of Pakistani batting legend Hanif Mohammad and son of former Pakistan international Shoaib Mohammad.
In the infancy of his first-class career, to date Mohammad has played 13 first class matches, scoring four half-centuries since signing for PIA. Has also played four List A matches. Having made his first class debut in December 2009, where he top-scored with 70, he played only two games in the 2009/10 season. The following season he played four matches and in 2012/13, to date he has played 7 matches. This season has been his breakthrough season for PIA and he spoke to PakPassion about his career to date, the influence of his family and aims for the future.
Introduction to cricket
It runs in my family and I’ve been playing cricket since I was young. Seeing my father playing for Pakistan and my grandfather, it’s always what I wanted to do from a very young age. It’s the only thing I wanted to do in life – carry on the family tradition and InshAllah one day play [for Pakistan] myself.
Cricket is the main topic in my house. Usually other families have other things to do, other priorities in life. Luckily I was born in a cricketing family, the Mohammad family, and every day, every night, it was always about cricket so I grew up watching it. I grew up going to cricket matches with my grandfather mostly - and seeing what he accomplished in life - like my father did, as my uncles did. I wanted to do this for myself too.
When I was young, a lot of times when I was in England I would watch matches with my grandfather at Lords. Also in Pakistan when there used to be teams coming here, we used to go watch matches all the time.
Favourite matches watched as a youngster
I remember watching Australia versus Pakistan in England. I think it was a triangular series, or a four-way series between India, Pakistan, England and Australia. I remember Pakistan losing that match so it wasn’t that great a feeling! But it was still a very very good experience.
Being in Pakistan during the 1996 World Cup, when I saw Pakistan playing in Pakistan was great. Luckily, whenever there was a team coming to tour Pakistan we used to know, because Pakistan is a country where cricket is loved the most, so basically any chance you get to watch cricket on television or at the stadium, everyone that I know pounced on the opportunity. I usually used to go watch. I’ve seen Zimbabwe play here (Pakistan), I’ve seem South Africa play here, England play here, India play here. The last time India was here, I was at the matches against them and also Sri Lanka.
My career only started a few years ago! I was living with my mother, studying in the States (USA). I attended high school in the States and I came back (to Pakistan) at the age of 18 to pursue cricket. I was playing cricket in the States but I knew for me to play proper cricket in Pakistan I had to come back and play in Pakistan, and leave my studies.
Luckily when I came back after graduating high school - I was playing cricket there (USA) - I got into it fully and sacrificed a lot of things in life to come back and put my time into cricket.
MashAllah, Allah was kind and I worked for it. Within the first year, luckily Sarfraz Ahmed the PIA wicket-keeper was gone with the Test team so there was no wicket-keeper for PIA, the first class team. So luckily they called me to play the last two matches and in both of those matches I scored two 50s in a row. I got my PIA contract that way and since then I’ve been a first-class player for PIA for the last three years. My career started off three years ago; I was getting on-and-off chances. The team actually believes in me, they want me to perform and they’re trying to groom me. I’m still learning the game so as a youngster, every opportunity I get to sit down with any of the great players for PIA or any of the other teams I really do try to make the most of it – I think I ask them way too many questions! It’s ok though as this is what I’ve been taught and this is how I can help myself in my cricketing career to go forward.
MashAllah God has been very kind. My dad (Shoaib Mohammad) is my best friend and I’ve always been really really close to my Grandfather (Hanif Mohammad) and that helps me in my cricketing career. I’m growing up, I’m 21 now, I’m playing and playing through and trying to stay balanced between the good times and the bad times.
What I try to do most is to work hard. That’s all in my hands. Good times come, bad times come but what’s in your hands is to work hard. That’s all I hope, that’s what I pray for, to stay fit. I will keep working hard because I know if I do work hard in the right way, Insha-Allah one day I will get the proper result.
I’ve played 12 matches so far and scored four 50s. As a wicket-keeper batsman opening the innings it’s a little tough to do but I take it as a challenge. I really love playing in Pakistan and in the future I aim to play better cricket and try to make my cricket better in any way possible.
On career before PIA
I was living in Pakistan until the age of 10 or 11 and moved to the USA when my mother moved to Houston. I went there for a few years and came back to Pakistan for one summer. So I would actually play here and I felt I still had it in me to come back to Pakistan to pursue it. I came back, leaving my studies completely, because my father told me for me to play first class cricket, professional cricket, in Pakistan I would have to work twice as hard as anyone else to play at the same level. I’m trying to stay humble, work hard as much as possible and I got lucky; I got an opportunity to play and thankfully I performed which led to a contract.
I was playing Karachi Under-19 cricket, that’s how I was selected, that’s how I got noticed. When I came back to Karachi (from the USA), I live in Karachi, the Under-19 regional and district tournaments happen and I performed in that. I went to play for Karachi Under-19 but didn’t get the opportunity. It was the same year as the Under 19 World Cup that was being played in New Zealand, that Pakistan reached the final against Australia. That was the year (2010) I was with the Under-19 team but because I was an inexperienced guy in Karachi they didn’t give me the opportunity to play for Karachi Under 19s. They let me play just one, a consolation match but I was happy that I got an opportunity. Within that time, because I did perform at under-19 level to be in that Karachi Under-19 team, PIA knew that. I practiced with the PIA academy, I used to go and practice with them, so they knew me and they needed a wicket-keeper batsman so the let me play and from there I went on to play for Karachi and then PIA.
Difficulties in domestic cricket
The domestic structure in Pakistan means you really have to grind it out. There are a lot of tough rules for under-23 players. For example, if you’re a department player you can’t play other tournaments. I know I wait three times a year, for three opportunities – the T20s and the one-dayers. I had an opportunity last year, I had a good start to the season but I didn’t finish that strongly but I accept the positives and negatives as a learning experience. I’m still learning the game, learning the wickets so it was a very good experience playing with the likes of Shoaib Malik and having a partnership with him once in a while and grinding it out, it’s really nice.
That’s what my grandfather tells me to do. Sometimes I do think too much of what’s going to happen in the future. I’m very close to my grandfather and what he tells me to do. All I’m trying to do at the moment is enjoy life and work as hard as I can. If I do that, then I know that if it’s in my destiny or future, it will happen. All I can do is have a pure approach towards my thoughts, towards cricket, and if it’s meant to happen, it will happen I will get the best result I can get. I’m a hopeful guy!
On playing against some of his heroes
As a youngster playing the big league it was a little intimidating seeing all these cricketers in front of you. You always imagine yourself looking at Afridi, looking at Shoaib Akhtar, looking at all these players but then being in the same leagues such as the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. Of course they don’t play now, but this is where they played and some still are playing – playing against Younis Khan and all these cricketers is enjoyable. If you take it positively, it leaves you a lot of good memories. Anything in life you have to enjoy for it to get better, that’s my motto in life.
On the importance of patience
I’m enjoying it more now than I did before, as maybe now I have a history in Pakistan now after I’ve started living in Pakistan and history in my own cricketing abilities. In my first few matches I was eager to get it done then, I was thinking too much, just wanted to finish it off, wanted to perform just to play the next level. You have to be patient with your game.
On a youngster playing domestic cricket
I think I was brought into domestic at the right age, to see what this cricket is. Domestic cricket in Pakistan is very difficult. We don’t use a Kookaburra ball, we use a Grays ball in Pakistan, with the seam that never finishes. Domestic cricket in Pakistan is very bowler friendly; it’s an experience. If you work here and put in the right time and stay patient, things will come if you practice the right way. Before in my life, maybe I was impatient but I’m now very happy with here I am right now but despite being blessed and lucky, I need to work hard to play at a better level and perform in the domestic circuit so I can play even better cricket.
Having these opinions from my grandfather helps me out, keeps me sane. I’d say he is my coach, he is my mentor. That’s what I’m trying to do, to follow his footsteps and do what the right thing is. If I think too much – you can’t control yourself – but at the same time, you try your best at everything you do and hope that when it’s your day you make the most out of it.
Influence of father and grandfather
I’d say my father is more like a friend to me, and my grandfather is a best friend to me. It’s not like a father-son relationship. It’s very open. My grandfather tells me always, just don’t think too much. He just tells me just play the game, enjoy the game. He says that when he played for Pakistan, when he was a schoolboy before he was selected for Pakistan, he didn’t care about playing for Pakistan at that time, he just wanted to enjoy the cricket he was playing. If he was playing school cricket, he just wanted to enjoy playing school cricket and make the most out of it and that automatically made him play better first-class cricket. He then began enjoying first-class cricket, which he performed in and automatically went on to play for Pakistan. Don’t think of what’s in front of you, live in the present which you can do right now and play well and automatically the next stage will come to you naturally.
My father is a bit stricter with me. He just wants me to keep on working hard. I never saw my grandfather play but from what I saw of my father though and what I’ve heard about my father, he was a very humble guy when it came to playing cricket., very stubborn at the crease and he said all he did was to work hard, don’t give your wicket away. His main focus is “you have to work hard, whether you are batting at the crease, whether you’re keeping, it’s an all-round game.” For me especially, he says “for you to play better cricket, you have to work twice as hard in comparison to everyone else, for you to play at that level, so no critics have anything to say to you.”
When I came back, that was the first thing he said to me. I did wonder what he meant by that, but now with time I’m getting what he’s saying. I know for me to play the next step I have to work ten times as hard. Not because I’m not as good as anyone, but me I should not get any questions from anyone else. He says to be the best you can be, you have to work doubly hard to reach that level so everyone talks about you. That’s a snapshot of the lecture I get once in a while from my father, but it’s important because I try to get attention. I really do want to make my family’s name proud again. I love being in this family and I never lost sight of who I am or where I was from.
Favourite players and role models
I love watching Shane Watson play. He’s an all-round cricketer, with his physique, with his ability as an all-rounder, I love the way he plays.
I would also say AB de Villiers because he’s so versatile. He really knows his game and he’s a really good role model.
These guys, they’re really good on-field, but they’re really good off-field too. It’s both ways – for you to be good on the field, you have to give back to the community and work hard outside of cricket - what you do for the people around you. Reading about AB de Villiers, I love watching him play. Shane Watson is my favourite player so I try to watch him religiously.
Those are my two favourite players. I would say my role model would be my father, for what he was and who he is now but what can I say? I’ve been brought up in a very nice household, I don’t need a bigger role model than my grandfather.
I also like Ian Bell, who has the best technique I’ve seen playing on the circuit right now but you can’t really copy anyone, you have to play your own game.
On his batting style
Naturally trying to be defensive comes with the tradition but now that the game is changing so much you have to adapt. One-day cricket, even Test match cricket has become a little bit faster. I’m still learning the game; I wouldn’t say that I’m one-dimensional player, I’m not. I have the ability to play and perform in every single form of cricket. I guess I’d say I’m versatile, depending on the situation, depending on what the team ask for I will try to play the best that I can be.
Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore. Lovely setting for a cricket ground.
Toughest bowler faced
Sohail Tanvir. It was the conditions he was bowling in this season, with the balls he was using - it was a beauty to watch. It was a beauty to play against it, it was a beauty to watch. Watching the ball move both ways, it was my first time playing him too. He’s known as one of the most dangerous bowlers on the circuit even now. It was amusing and a really good challenge to play against him to see how well he does. Hopefully next time I’ll get the best of him.
Hobbies outside cricket
To relax, I love working out. That’s the best stress reliever there can be. Besides that, I’m into music a lot. I’m also studying law now, trying to get back into my studies.