January issue 2009
The Man with the Golden Arm
Sohail Tanvir represents a new breed of international cricketer — one who makes his name and fortune in the helter-skelter world of Twenty20 cricket. In his first year as an international cricketer, the Rawalpindi-born all-rounder played only two Test matches — due partly to Pakistan’s unofficial exile from world cricket — but shone in the shorter form of the game. The 24-year-old’s breakout year was capped on Christmas Day, as Tanvir flew out to Adelaide after signing a lucrative contract to play for South Australia in the Australian Twenty20 Championship.
Success, however, did not always fall into Tanvir’s lap. In his first-class debut in the fall of 2004, the tall, lanky pacer — nicknamed Sohail Kukree — failed to impress against Peshawar. But he bounced back in his second game against Multan, scoring an unbeaten 97 and taking three wickets.
Tanvir shot to international fame in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa in September 2007. He competed in what turned out to be a popular event as a replacement for Shoaib Akhtar. In the tournament, Tanvir’s unique wrong-footed action baffled unprepared batsman and helped him attain success, and he ended it as one of the event’s surprise packages. He also demonstrated his prowess with the bat in the final against India. With Pakistan on the verge of defeat, he sauntered in and smashed a couple of sixes, nearly taking the team to a most improbable victory.
The undoubted highpoint of Tanvir’s career as a professional came during the inaugural Indian Premier League (IPL) in the summer of 2008. While representing the Rajasthan Royals — the least expensive team in a league of big-spenders — Tanvir excelled as a bowler and went on to collect 6 for 14 in one of the IPL games — the best figures in the shortest version of the game. Tanvir was later named the best bowler of the multimillion-dollar IPL season.
“It’s been a satisfying journey for me so far,” says Tanvir, who has become one of the key players in the Pakistan line-up in a very short time. “When I used to play on the streets of my locality, I never imagined I would play international cricket and do well in it. Allah has been kind to me,” he says.
Tanvir is still a newcomer in the Pakistan ranks. He has just played two Tests, picking up five wickets in them. He has played 27 One-day Internationals, scalping 43 victims at an average of 26. He also has nine Twenty20 wickets from 10 games.
“I hope to play for Pakistan for a long time,” he says. “There isn’t a bigger honour than playing for your country and I hope to give my best each time I play for it.”
The writer is ranked among the battle-hardened journalists covering sports. As sports editor for The News, he covers sporting action extensively in Pakistan and abroad.