Son of a gun

May 15, 2022

Players related to stars may have an edge over others at the entry level but to stay in the game they have to prove themselves with fitness, technique, and consistency

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Despite unfavourable circumstances, numerous challenges and lack of financial and material resources, Pakistan produced world class athletes in almost every game. Our global dominance in the game of squash, men's field hockey, athletics, cricket, combat sports, sailing and billiards remained unquestionable for a very long time.

Cricket has been second to religion and is played in every nook and corner of the country. Cricket and squash are two such sports where certain families dominated the scene.

Family support in the case of squash was very limited because of the nature of the game where athletes are on their own and can't survive on reference alone. Cricket on the contrary because of its variety of formats and ample opportunities is a matter of chance.

Pakistan Cricket was dominated in the past by Mohammads from Karachi and the famous Burki family of Lahore. Both families made great contributions to the growth of cricket in the country by providing giants that dominated the game for a long period of time.

Who doesn't know about the great Hanif Mohammad, his brothers Mushtaq, Sadiq, Wazir and Raees? Shoaib, son of Hanif, played 45 Tests matches from 1983 to 1995 and scored 2705 runs at a fine average of 44.3 with highest score of 203. Coached under the watchful eyes of his father and uncles, Shoaib was a technically sound and physically fit player whose career came to an early culmination due to game politics.

Majid Khan, Javed Burki and World Cup winner Imran Khan are cousins. Bazid Khan is son of my all-time favourite dashing opening batsman Majid. Bazid despite having good orthodox batting technique that was displayed by him in 153 first class matches in which he scored 7669 runs only got one chance to prove his worth against the mighty West Indies at Bridgetown, where he managed only thirty-two runs.

Mudassar Nazar, another wonderful cricketer, is son of Nazar Mohammad.

The current PCB Chairman under Ramiz Raja is brother of dashing left handed middle order batsman Waseem Hasan Raja.

Rana brothers - Azmat, Mansoor, Maqsood, Shafqat and Sultan - played international or first class cricket, while Shakoor stood tall as an international umpire.

The Elahi brothers - Manzoor, Elahi and Salim - also made good contributions to Pakistan cricket.

Test cricketers Imran and Humayun Farhat are real brothers whereas Javed Miandad is uncle of Faisal Iqbal and opener Imam-ul-Haq is nephew of Inzamam-ul-Haq. And Usman Qadir is son of spinning wizard Abdul Qadir.

One should also mention the services of Danish Kaneria and Anil Dalpat for Pakistan cricket along with splendid services of Akmal brothers - Kamran, Umar and Adnan - and their cousin Babar Azam.

In the international cricket world, Dough Bracewell of New Zealand is son of Brendon Bracewell. Jonny Bairstow, the English wicketkeeper batsman, is son of David Bairtow.

Sam and Tom Curran, the pace bowling all-rounders from Zimbabwe, are sons of Kavin Curren.

Stuart Broad, the top red ball bowler, is the son of Chris Broad. Shuan and Mitchell Marsh of Australia are sons of Geoff Marsh.

If one looks at the cricketing profiles of these outstanding cricketers one can notice that despite talent and technique of varying level, they had the family support that helped them directly or indirectly but it was always their performance that helped them to sustain their positions in extreme competitive circumstances of the game.

To be a son, daughter or any other close relative of a great player is a double edge sword. On one hand it gives you a great advantage to learn and adjust in a competitive environment better than others, it also keeps you under intense scrutiny because both media and game management leave little breathing space for the incumbents.

Being the son of a national coach and selector, I can very well assess and feel the pressure that a budding athlete goes through in his formidable years.

In NBA history Kobe Bryant has been an undisputed champion. Five time NBA champion Kobe Bryant scored 33,643 points. He played 20 seasons for the Lakers and was named All Star player for 18 times in NBA history. When Kobe picked basketball seriously, his father Joe, also known as Jelly Bean Bryant, who played most of his career in European league, told his son Kobe that he has to be better, faster, fitter and technically sounder than him, otherwise people would know him only as son of Jelly Bean and not Kobe Bryant.

In modern-day white-ball cricket, many new stars are born every season. PSL has introduced many stars. Azam Khan is one such son of a gun - an explosive hard-hitting wicket-keeping batsman who is son of Pakistan's famous wicketkeeper batsman Moin Khan who has been recently included into American Cricket Hall of Fame. For his 69 Tests and 219 one-day matches, Moin had to fight against Rashid Latif.

Azam has so far played 35 T20 matches, including three for Pakistan, in which he scored 1449 runs at an average of 21.3. He has represented Islamabad United and Quetta Gladiators in PSL and has been centre of attention and criticism simultaneously in the media and cricketing fraternity. I have my sympathies for the young man who has talent to hit big boundaries.

Azam and other athletes of modern times should realise that there is no shortcut to success. Being son of a gun has an advantage but modeling yourself on wrong ideals could prove disastrous in competitive cricket. Fitness and technique are key to success. The reason for Babur Azam or Inam ul Haq to shine at international horizon is not that they are related to some cricket stars but their fitness and good technique.

Azam has to decide about his future. He should decide what he wants to be: a hard-hitting entertainer on placid wickets or an impactful cricketer in all formats of the game. He must get rid of extra pounds immediately, prove his fitness and technique to his critics and should remember that modern day cricket needs "products" not just ordinary players. We hope and pray that the talent should not go to waste because of his own follies.

Aamir Bilal is an eminent sports analyst with expertise in sports management and sports for development

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