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I'm a big admirer of Virat Kohli, he's my role-model in recent times: Saad Bin Zafar | Exclusive

Published at :July 10, 2024 at 7:36 PM
Modified at :July 10, 2024 at 7:36 PM
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Rutvij Joshi


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Saad Bin Zafar captained Canada at the recently concluded ICC T20 World Cup 2024.

The ICC T20 World Cup 2024 in the USA and West Indies was one of the path-breaking tournaments hosted by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for many reasons. The ninth edition of the most entertaining format of Cricket World Cup saw 20 teams qualify for the main event for the first time.  

Not only did it bring cricket’s showpiece event to unconventional places like the USA, but also gave chances to countries like Canada, Papua New Guinea, Uganda, Oman to exhibit their skills in the shortest format. Moreover, co-hosts USA qualified for the Super 8 round in their first attempt.

Historically speaking, Canada and the USA were the first nations to ever play a competitive game of cricket in the year 1884.

Canada, for the first time since the 2011 Cricket World Cup in the subcontinent, qualified for a marquee ICC event. Following the event, Khel Now had the pleasure to speak with the 37-year-old Canadian captain Saad Bin Zafar.

Saad has a unique record to his name. He bowled four consecutive maidens in a T20I game. However, his only agenda was to finish the game early in order to catch a flight back home. The captain narrated incidents of the days of struggle of Canadian cricket along with his journey of moving to the North American nation from Pakistan and how cricket happened to him by luck.

Here are the excerpts from the conversation:

Q1: Hi Saad, first of all, welcome to Khel Now TV. How are you feeling? Tell us about your experience playing at the T20 World Cup this year?

Saad Bin Zafar: I am feeling great. The experience was phenomenal. It was my first World Cup and it was my dream to always represent Canada in a World Cup, which finally came true. Experience was great. We were able to put up a great fight against all the countries we played against. For us, to beat a team like Ireland, which is a test team and ranked quite high above us was a great achievement. Then also competing really well against Pakistan and dragging the game down to the 19th over was an achievement in itself. 

Overall, if we had won the game against the USA, we could have gone to the Super 8s. So, it would have been a great achievement. But overall, great achievement and then also we were able to get a lot of appreciation from all around the world.

Q2: You talked about facing Pakistan. What was your experience when you faced Pakistan as it is your country of birth?

Saad Bin Zafar: I actually grew up in Pakistan. Back in the days when I was a kid, I used to follow Pakistan cricket and I used to have my role-models from the Pakistan team. So, you know, those things do play at the back of the mind when you’re playing against your birth country. But overall, it was a great experience. 

My parents and my extended family, they all live in Pakistan. So they were watching the game, they were cheering for Pakistan, but they wanted me to do well in the game.

Q3: India’s match against Canada got washed out and eventually they became champions. Were you disappointed that you didn’t get to play against India at this tournament?

Saad Bin Zafar: Yes, we were disappointed because Canada has never played against India in the past. It was a historic day for us and we were really looking forward to it. Even now they are the world champions, but even before that they were ranked No.1 in the T20 format.

So, we were really looking forward to that game. We wanted to compete against the legends like Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma and all those other superstars. But unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Yes, we were disappointed.

Q4: When did you move to Canada from Pakistan? If you can share the reason behind it. 

Saad Bin Zafar: I moved to Canada when I was 17, it was in 2004. The reason was just for my studies. The whole family migrated to Canada and we just wanted to have access to good education system and then good career opportunities.

Q5: Did you try to play cricket in Pakistan professionally? Or did you begin playing professionally after you moved to Canada? 

Saad Bin Zafar: No, I was just playing school cricket in Pakistan. I never thought of pursuing cricket as a career. Even in Canada, it just happened by luck. I met a few people who were playing club cricket and then they kind of insisted me to join club cricket and that’s how the journey started.

But, I never thought that I would play cricket professionally and even growing up generally in a Browns parents house they all want you to focus on your studies.

Q6: You started playing your First-Class cricket at the age of 21. So at what age you decided you want to play professionally for Canada?

Saad Bin Zafar: So, First-Class cricket is actually international cricket in Canada because we don’t play test cricket. The international games that we play it’s a four-day cricket back in the days that we used to play and that four-day cricket against another country, associate country, has a status of First-Class. So, that was actually my debut for Canada. I debuted against Bermuda in a four-day game, which has like a First-Class status. So, that is the first class game I have played. I think we played two games against Bermuda and Scotland. 

After that, ICC scratched the First-Class Intercontinental Cup that we used to play amongst associate nations. But, that was my debut game for Canada that I played. Even for the longest time, even when we were playing, even when I was playing for Canada, it was never a career path. We would all have to work and have our own jobs. 

But then, recently in the last few years, with a lot of T20 league starting and a lot of us getting ODI status back, we got contracts through the board and now it has become our full-time job. 

Q7: Recently we have seen in the T20 World Cup, Lockie Ferguson became the second bowler to bowl four maidens in T20Is and the first person to do it was you. So, what was your experience of watching Ferguson doing it after you? What was going through your head when you were bowling the same four overs?

Saad Bin Zafar: Well, it was good to see him doing it at a World Cup, at a bigger stage. Definitely, it’s not easy. It’s not something that has been achieved quite a few times. It was only done by me and then by him in the T20 format. When I did it in 2019, it was the World Cup Qualifiers tournament that we were playing in Antigua against Panama and it was the last game of the tournament. 

We had already qualified by that time, so that game didn’t really mean much for us. We batted first, we scored around 240-odd runs and we knew it’s a lot of runs for a team like Panama to chase. We had to catch the flight the same day. So, we were just trying to finish the game as soon as we could. Everybody was rushing and just going through their overs.

We had all the fielders in the inner circle as well. So, during the game, I never thought or I never focused that I’m bowling maidens after maidens. I was just trying to bowl quick and get rid of my overs. The wicket had turn and bite as well. So, when the game finished, I walked out and my coach told me that, ‘you know, you have just created a world record.’

I was like, what is that? He said, ‘you just bowled a 4-0. Nobody has ever done it in a T20 international game.’ That’s when I found out that I’ve made a record.

Q8: You are 37-years-old. For how long do you plan to play cricket? Secondly, there is a GT20 league happening in Canada. Do you plan to play in it in the upcoming years as well?

Saad Bin Zafar: Yes, definitely. At this point in time, I just want to focus on my fitness. I just want to play for a few more years. I don’t have a specific time. But, as long as I can stay fit, I can stay competitive and I’m enjoying my cricket I’ll play. Once any of those things are not working out, I’ll probably retire and walk away from cricket

Q9: Who was your favourite cricketer or role-model while growing up?

Saad Bin Zafar: While growing up, I used to follow Wasim Akram a lot. He was my role-model. I used to be a fast bowler back in the days and would mimic his action as well. Growing up he was my role-model and then in recent times, I’m a huge admirer of Virat Kohli, he’s my role-model.

Q10: How prepared do you think you are for GT20 Canada 2024?

Saad Bin Zafar: GT20 holds a special place in my heart. Like it’s that one tournament that gave me a platform to shine and do well. I’m really looking forward to Season 4 as well. We’ve been preparing hard for that tournament.

I’m doing my training on a daily basis and we have about three weeks left. Also playing club cricket and we also came back fresh from the World Cup as well. So, we are in good touch, good nick and we are really looking forward to that tournament. 

Q11: Shaheen Shah Afridi will play alongside you for Toronto Nationals in GT20. Are you excited to play alongside him?

Saad Bin Zafar: He is a skillful bowler, one of the best in the T20 format. it’s good to have him on my side and not in the opposition. So yes, I am looking forward to be playing alongside him in the GT20 and hopefully gain from his experience as well.

Q12: What are your expectations from this season? Any personal milestones you want to achieve?

Saad Bin Zafar: Well, I usually take one game at a time and I just want to do well for my team. I want to have a positive contribution. Hopefully, we get to go to the finals and win the competition. That’s the eventual goal. But, in the grand scheme of things, I just want to play one game at a time and do a positive contribution within the game. 

Whatever is required from me, whether it’s to bowl one over or four overs or to finish a game at the end, whatever the role on a day is given to me, I would try to do with the best of my abilities and do well.

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