T20 is about rhythm: Nadeem

Shahbaz’s journey from engineering to cricket and fast-bowling to spin

New Delhi 21 April 2012
Every time Shahbaz Nadeem is lauded for his bowling in the Indian Premier League, the left-arm spinner and his family’s joy must be tinged with the question — what if?

What if the 15-year-old Shahbaz had kept his word and traded cricket for academics? What if the call for an Under-15 camp had not come at the right time?

They know one thing for sure. Nadeem’s fate took him to the cricket ground instead of an engineering college. And that’s where the 22-year-old belongs.

The left-arm spinner, whose dream was to become a fast bowler like childhood idol Wasim Akram, has played a decisive role in Delhi Daredevils’ last two victories, over Mumbai Indians and Deccan Chargers respectively. Skipper Virender Sehwag is now confident enough to throw the new ball to the young man.

“I wanted to be a fast bowler because Wasim Akram was my idol but my coach Imtiaz Hussain asked me to bowl spin instead as I didn’t have the required height and the physique for fast bowling. I was about 11 or 12 years old at the time. He told me we would see about bowling fast later, so I started to bowl spin,” said the youngster, who has been watching spin superstar Daniel Vettori closely in the IPL.

Ask him about the other twist of fate in his life and Nadeem’s face lights up. “My brother and I both liked cricket but our parents didn’t want both of us to play it because the future [in the sport] is uncertain,” he told

“They wanted at least one of us to concentrate on studies. They told us that only one of us could play and that we would have to choose [which one of us got the chance]. That year [2002], my brother Ashhad Iqbal was doing very well [in cricket] so I told my dad that I would stop playing cricket. My brother started playing and since I was doing well in studies, I decided to give up cricket,” he explained.

But the story took another turn; the left-arm spinner was selected for the Under-15 state level camp quite by chance. “At that time the state camp team was announced in the newspaper [and I was selected]. My second-term exams were over and the finals were in February-March and the Under-15 tournament used to be held in November. I told my father, ‘It is just a matter of one month. I will just go play and come back.'

“I went to [the state] Under-15 [tournament] and in three innings I took 12 wickets so I was called for Under-15 India camp; I went there and got selected. When I returned, my brother said, ‘Okay, you play and I will stop playing cricket’.”

However, it wasn’t always an easy ride for Nadeem. Having struggled through a lean patch, he has come back determined to make his mark. “Last [season] I was dropped from the Ranji Trophy squad after two matches. After that I went to play in the Under-22 [team] because I wanted a chance to prove myself. I took 15 wickets in three innings and based on that performance I came back to the one-day side and was named Man-of-the-Match in the Vijay Hazare Trophy final.

“After that performance in the final, I got picked for the Delhi Daredevils team,” he added.

The Daredevils think tank is happy with their decision. “I am not surprised [with the way he has performed]. We have always known that he has the ability. The way he has put [it all] together – grasped the ability to drift the ball, turn the ball and control the length – is crucial," said DD head coach Eric Simons about the rising star.

Nadeem himself is enjoying bowling in this format. “I think Twenty20 is a game of rhythm. You have to be very strict with your line and length. I personally feel that you have to do very well in your first over to get into the rhythm."

The left-arm spinner also feels domestic cricketers have the edge in IPL. “If you have been playing domestic cricket consistently you travel across the country for matches and you have an idea about the wickets and how they will play,” he signed off saying.
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