I'd like to extend a huge thanks to both Saj and Yasir Ali for helping us get this interview with Yasir Hameed. And of course an even bigger thank you to Hameed for a great interview.
Hameed was a pleasure to interview, he doesnt take himself too seriously and is always ready with a quip or a joke. He was also very honest about his own game and clearly knows what areas he's weak at and what he needs to do to work on them
So here's the interview, hope you enjoy it...
PakPassion.Net: What got you into cricket professionally?
Yasir Hameed: (Begins with Bismillah) I'm sure you're aware that Pakistanis are crazy for cricket and I too came from a cricket mad family. I used to play cricket with my brothers and uncles every day, we used to play together all the time. Once I'd been playing for a short while people began telling me that I had some quality shots and that my batting had the potential to get me into cricket as a profession. So I agreed to try my luck and see if I could make a career out of playing a sport that I love.
PakPassion.Net: Is there anyone from your friends or family who was already a cricketer?
Yasir Hameed: No. I'm the first one from my circle to play cricket professionally and at the highest level.
PakPassion.Net: Who were your favourite cricketers when you were growing up?
Yasir Hameed: The entire World Cup winning team of 1992, their win was my inspiration to become a cricketer. From non-Pakistani players I've always been a big fan of Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar, as batsmen they're both a class apart from the rest of the field. Viv Richards and Gordon Greenidge were great players before that.
PakPassion.Net: When did you start taking cricket seriously?
Yasir Hameed: When i was selected for Peshawar u16 and began playing for Peshawar u16 division, that's when I realised that if I worked hard I had a real chance to make a career out of cricket.
PakPassion.Net: You dont have a Peshawari twang in your accent, did you grow up there?
Yasir Hameed: It's a good question. Although I grew up in Peshawar I'm actually from Abbottabad.
PakPassion.Net: You debuted in your mid-20s which is quite old by Pakistani cricket standards, why such a late debut?
Yasir Hameed: Because my cricket age is also my real age .
Yasir Hameed: (laughs) After playing junior cricket, I had a couple of poor seasons at domestic level where my performances weren't consistent. After that I had 3 years where I batted consistently and solidly in domestic cricket and I got selected on the basis of those performances. I'm glad I got the chance to play for Pakistan and it doesn't matter to me that it was in my mid-20s. I look to players like Zaheer Abbas who also debuted in his mid-20s and went on to forge a successful international career, I'm not as good as he was but his case is an inspiration to me.
PakPassion.Net: You began your career with a dream debut, scoring centuries in each innings, did this end up with people placing unrealistic expectations on your shoulders?
Yasir Hameed: You're right. People begin thinking if someone has scored a century in his first two innings then he should score another one in the 3rd, 4th, 5th innings and then in every innings after that. I'm grateful to Allah(swt) that I got a century in each innings on my debut but I agree with you that it does end up creating an unrealistic expectation. To be truthful I'm very disappointed in my performance in International cricket so far, I've missed out on 12 international centuries. I feel that if a player gets far enough past 50 runs in an innings then it's a crime for him not to convert that score into a century, if you're in good enough form to score 50 runs then you owe it to your team and to yourself to make your form count and get a really big score.
PakPassion.Net: Very well put, a batsman's job isn't completed once he's passed 50. As you say he should make his good form count.
Yasir Hameed: Dua karo (pray for me) that if I'm reselected that this time around I'm able to maintain my focus and concentration, I'm determined to make big scores nowadays.
PakPassion.Net: Do you also keep wicket?
Yasir Hameed: No I dont. A few people have told me that I have a natural talent for keeping wickets and that I should become a keeper but wicket keeping is a specialist job and you can't do justice to it unless you dedicate all your time to it. I want to be picked as a batsman and I'd rather spend my time concentrating on improving my batting than distract myself with trying to learn wicket keeping at my age.
PakPassion.Net: Is it true that you were put under pressure to become a keeper shortly after your debut?
Yasir Hameed: No nothing like that.
PakPassion.Net: It's just we read a few newspaper reports about how you were going to take up the gloves for Pakistan, what was behind that?
Yasir Hameed: That's news to me. Perhaps they were trying to put pressure on Kamran Akmal or something along those lines?
PakPassion.Net: Do you prefer playing Test cricket or ODI cricket?
Yasir Hameed: I can't choose between the two, I'm a cricketer and I just love playing any form of cricket. It's like you asking me if a Suraj Mukhi flower is more beautiful than a rose, both flowers are beautiful in different ways and in the same way I love both Test and ODI cricket.
PakPassion.Net: Who's fitter out of you and Gul, you're both known to have 8 packs and to be in top physical shape.
Yasir Hameed: You can't compare our fitness because we're totally different players. I'm a batsman and he's a fast bowler, we use entirely different muscles to do our jobs. Gul has to be fitter than me because he's a fast bowler and a fast bowlers number one priority should be his fitness. I'm lucky and I thank God that I've never had a serious injury, I dont envy Gul all the strains and niggles that he's been through. He's a really dedicated cricketer and works unbelievably hard on his physical conditioning.
PakPassion.Net: What're your favourite innings in both Test and ODI cricket?
Yasir Hameed: Without a doubt in Tests it's my centuries in each innings on my debut, in ODIs it's the 98 I scored against India in Peshawar to win the MOTM award and the 300 I recently scored in domestic cricket is my favourite ever innings.
PakPassion.Net: You've always had an issue with your offstump, it's your biggest weakness in batting. Is this something you struggle with in domestic cricket as well or is it something that has only crept into your International game?
Yasir Hameed: (laughs) How do I answer that? Actually I agree with you, it's been my most common mode of dismissal in my career so far. However I'd like to say that if I get another chance then with time you'll forget I ever had an offstump weakness, I'm quite confident that I've exorcised those demons and it wont be a problem for me again. I've been aware of it and working really hard on it. If you take a look at this seasons domestic performance you'll see that I've been in good form and I have been scoring some big runs, I'm confident that I've beaten it now.
PakPassion.Net: What specific work have you done on this weakness?
Yasir Hameed: I've been working on my shot selection and have gone back to basics, I had a habit of chasing the ball outside the offstump even if it was swinging. I've even scored lots of runs by doing that but in the long run it gets you into a bad habit and once you develop a bad habit in cricket it's hard to shake off...
PakPassion.Net: (interrupts) ...what I've observed whilst watching you is that (as you've said) you arent afraid to attack the swinging ball, even if it's outside the offstump. I think your main problem is that you weren't backing yourself fully to pull off an attacking shot after committing yourself to playing it, you would go in intending to hit the ball and pull out at the last minute. I personally feel that if you had just completed the shot you intended to play then most of the time you would've been ok instead of getting out. I think if you commit yourself to a shot then you should play it anyway because it's less risky than pulling out at the last minute, that sort of aggressive attitude is what makes Jayasuriya and Sehwag so good. It's the indecisiveness which gets you out more than anything else.
Yasir Hameed: Exactly, you've got it spot on. This isn't just a problem for me but for every batsman, it's indecision and being in two minds about what to do that eats away at a batsman's confidence. We batsmen often get out poking at a ball which we could have hit for a boundary had we completed the shot instead of pulling out at the last minute. We should back our initial instincts more often.
PakPassion.Net: In your last tour of India you really struggled against Kumble, he was even introduced early a few times specifically to get your wicket. What went wrong?
Yasir Hameed: I admit, I admit. I let him get on top of me and as a result he gave me a lot of difficulty. It was of my own doing really, I played him too carefully and too defensively. What I should've done was to charge him a few times, loft him for a few boundaries and put the pressure on him. Instead I went into my shell, played too defensively and ended up creating unnecessary pressure on myself. Kumble is a really experienced bowler and he noticed it straight away, he used it to his advantage. Had I charged him and put him on the back foot perhaps things would've been different but when you're out in the middle and batting under pressure then often you forget the simplest of things.
PakPassion.Net: On some occasions, even before Kumble had released the ball, you'd planted your right foot across the line making yourself a sitting duck for an lbw.
Yasir Hameed: I admit the charge you Honour (laughs), I'm pleading guilty on all counts.
PakPassion.Net: (laughs) Ok but before we move on, has that experience had any negative effect on the way you play spinners?
Yasir Hameed: Pakistan is a country with a rich tradition in spin bowling, we have had past stars like Qadir, Saqi and Mushy internationally. Also we have lots of good spin bowlers playing domestic cricket even now, I haven't found myself struggling against spin bowling as a result of the experience with Kumble. As I said I let him dominate me when I should have been the one dominating him. That's where I went wrong.
PakPassion.Net: You began your career batting at number 3, then you were made to open but where do you prefer to bat?
Yasir Hameed: I began my career batting at number 3 but I was asked to open because I was told that my technique was good enough for me to be an opener. I agreed without a problem because I'm ready, willing and happy to bat at any position for my country. But that decision of mine has meant that I've now been tagged as an opener and I'm not being considered to bat anywhere else. I think that's really unfair as I started out as a middle order batsman and not an opener, it recently cost me a chance to get into the Pakistan squad for the Champions Trophy because the available position was in the middle order and not as an opener. When they needed me to step up and open the innings I was happy to do it but now that I need them to see me as a potential candidate for the middle order, they can only see me as an opener. The truth is that I'm in great batting form at the moment and I'm ready to play in any position for my country and (Insha Allah) score big runs.
PakPassion.Net: I've always rated you as the best current Pakistani batsman after the big 3 (Inzi, Yousuf and Younis). You have the shots, the technique and the proven ability because you've made good scores on pitches around the world (including in South Africa and Australia). However despite having all the necessary ingredients you've never fulfilled your potential as a batsman, what's missing is consistency. Why do you think you haven't been consistent?
Yasir Hameed: Thank you for the compliments but I can't be compared with those three batsmen, I still have a long way to go before I can be named alongside them. You asked me why I'm not consistent but I'd like to ask you how can a batsman (especially an opener) be consistent if he isnt given consistent chances? If you're selected inconsistently then how can you be consistent? I batted well when I first started but after a dip in form I began getting picked and dropped very inconsistently. Sometimes I was in the XI, other times I wasnt even the squad and suddenly i was back in the XI. This sort of treatment can be very disheartening for any player and I dont believe that it's fair to expect consistency of performance to come out of inconsistency of opportunity.
PakPassion.Net: During the 2004 tour of Pakistan we heard a story about Rahul Dravid not recognizing you. Can you tell us what really happened?
Yasir Hameed: I guess he'd seen me bowling in the nets because we took a lift together and he asked me if I was an offspinner, he said my action reminded him of Saqlain Mushtaq. I corrected him and informed him that I was an opening batsman and so he said 'I see' and that was it. He wasn't rude to me or anything like that but I felt that I should do something to ensure that he remembers who I am the next time we meet. In the next game I hit 91 runs but unfortunately we lost that game.
PakPassion.Net: What was it like working with Bob Woolmer?
Yasir Hameed: Everyone was positive and excited about him when he arrived, he came with a proven track record and we were all looking forward to working with him. He sold us on the dream of winning the 2007 World Cup, we all shared that vision with him and he said he was here to take us to the cup. That got us all pulling together, I was personally very excited because at that time I was in good form and I was really looking forward to working with such a legendary coach.
PakPassion.Net: Woolmer was a big fan of yours, he also said you were the player he spent the most time with.
Yasir Hameed: He was a great coach, very hard working and he benefitted the Pakistan team a lot. Especially Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf. They made great strides under his coaching.
PakPassion.Net: Imagine I'm the chief selector, how would you convince me that you should get another chance to play for Pakistan?
Yasir Hameed: (breaks into English) Cricket is a fair game, I know I didnt get any runs in 6 innings in India but that's in the past now and I'm back in form. I've just scored a triple century in domestic cricket and I've scored quite a few hundreds and fifties recently. I did well in the Pentangular Cup and I scored close to 90 runs in the trial game. I think I deserve another chance to prove myself, I'm one of the guys that can win matches for you and I'm willing to bat where the team needs me.
PakPassion.Net: This 300 that you've mentioned a couple of times was scored against Abdur Rauf and Mohammad Irshad, tell us a bit more about it.
Yasir Hameed: The track wasn't flat, we put the other team in to bat and bowled them out twice to win the game. On the first day we bowled them out for 300 and I had to go out and survive 6 or 7 overs until the close of play. I ended the day with 20 runs, I was in good form and the ball was coming off the bat nicely. I went out the next day with a good feeling about my innings and scored 50, then 100, then 150 and by the time I reached 200 I had decided that I was going to go for 300. By the time I reached 300 I began to dare to dream of scoring 400 but my head was still in the clouds when I got out. Ever since that 300 I've been seeing the cricket ball like a beach ball and thank God (Allah ka Shukr hai) I've been in really good form. I'm a changed batsman since that 300, I'm much more confident in myself and in my skills and technique.
PakPassion.Net: Have you ever had an offer from ICL?
Yasir Hameed: I've had a few offers from ICL, many of the people I turn to for advice have told me that it's stupid to turn down that much money and that I should accept it. To be honest with you, I have felt tempted to take the offer but something wont let me. My heart just wont agree to it so I turned them down.
PakPassion.Net: What about the IPL?
Yasir Hameed: I was told that I was supposed to be in the bidding for the IPL but after my run of bad form the PCB didnt recommend me and without their recommendation you cant be signed up by any IPL teams.
PakPassion.Net: How about county cricket?
Yasir Hameed: I'd like to test myself on the English wickets. I'm sure that I'd score lots of runs, I love playing cricket in England so I'd be very happy to play in County cricket, in fact it's something that I've always wanted to do.
PakPassion.Net: I've always felt that there's a perception that Pakistani batsmen dont do too well in county cricket, maybe they think you guys cant play well outside Asia?
Yasir Hameed: If they do then they're wrong.
PakPassion.Net: You stayed with Yasir Ali in the Uk, can you confirm his boasts about his cooking? Is he really that good?
Yasir Hameed: That's true, his cooking is good. Actually I've noticed that even my own cooking tastes better in England but my cooking doesnt taste as good back home. I dont know why.
PakPassion.Net: Probably because you have to cook in England but in Pakistan it tastes better when someone else cooks for you.
Yasir Hameed: (laughs) You might be right there.
PakPassion.Net: Tell us about your innings in the practise game and how you feel about missing out on selection for the Champions Trophy?
Yasir Hameed: It was a seaming wicket and a 45 over match. Myself and Bazid Khan both batted well and our team won a very close game. Of course I'm disappointed that I wasn't selected, that goes without saying. I feel that I've been performing well enough to merit a selection but I wasn't selected. Still I wish Bazid the best of luck and I hope he does well (Insha Allah).
PakPassion.Net: Thank you very much for speaking to us Yasir, I wish you the best of luck in the future and I genuinely hope to see you playing for Pakistan again (Insha Allah).
Yasir Hameed: Insha Allah and thank your members for their questions.