DTG Interviews Mohammed Musa Khan

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DTG: How did you commence your cricketing journey and how did you get into cricket?

MM: I started playing cricket in 2016 at the professional level. Before that, I used to play tape ball cricket in the streets with friends, etc. One day, there was a school tournament taking place and people knew I play tape ball cricket, so they decided they should try me out. I played for the school team and bowled and batted well and someone saw me playing and was impressed. He offered me the chance to transition to hard ball cricket, which I readily accepted. I started hard-ball cricket from there and soon joined an Islamabad club. After that, by the grace of Allah, I got selected at the Under-19 level, then district level, then at the regional level and step by step, I made progress.

DTG: Which part of Pakistan do you hail from?

MM: I am from the Kohistan district but I mainly used to play tape-ball cricket in Rawalpindi.

DTG: How did you get into fast-bowling? Is there any Pakistani fast-bowler who is your idol, who you wanted to emulate or did you just naturally start out as a fast-bowler?

MM: Pace comes to me naturally but I follow the likes of Shoaib Akhtar and Waqar Younis quite closely. I met Shaibi bhai and got some tips from him and also met Viki bhai. However, from my youth, fast-bowling was my hobby. My father wanted me to bat but batting did not interest me that much.

DTG: Did you have your family's support from the beginning when you started playing cricket?

MM: I didn't have the full support of my family as I am from a humble background. My father himself is a labourer thus it was difficult. However, I would help out my father with some work then run off to the club to play cricket. When my father eventually realised that I was playing competitive cricket at the Regional level, and then I was selected to represent Pakistan, he eased up and said OK, you go ahead and play your cricket.

DTG: What was the first major tournament you took part in? 

MM: The first major tournament for me was when I was selected for the Asia Cup in 2016. At the Regional Under-19 level prior to that, I topped the charts for Islamabad, taking 28 wickets. I was also selected for matches at the NCA and impressed in those games, which led to Asia Cup selection. We toured Sri Lanka for the Asia Cup, where I didn't play any matches but I was in the squad. I then continued to perform in domestic cricket, taking 43 wickets and forcing the selectors to select me once again, which they did and this time I performed well at the Under-19 level for Pakistan, picking up nine wickets in four matches.

DTG: On the topic of Under-19, in the QF and SF of the Under-19 World Cup, you took 3 and 4 wickets respectively against South Africa and India. How did those games impact your development and how did it feel to perform on that stage? 

MM: In the matches prior to that, I wasn't able to get wickets but I was keeping the runs down and the coaches had confidence in me, and that I'll get wickets. Still, I was disappointed after not picking up wickets but my friend pointed out that it's just about destiny, but I said that if I don't pick up wickets, then how will I be recognised and known? Before the match against SA, I made dua to Allah from my heart, that Allah, keep my respect in these televised games. I put a lot of effort against SA and got three wickets. And when you play against India, there is natural aggression that comes to the fore, so the aggression came out and what happened, happened. All thanks to Allah.

DTG: You had a very good rapport with Shaheen at the Under-19 level, how did you enjoy bowling alongside him?

MM: We are very good friends and have a great understanding between each other. We stated that if one from one end is going for runs then the other from the other end should try to pick up a wicket and that worked out well for us.

DTG: When you and Shaheen face someone like Shubman Gill (who hit a hundred for India in the Under-19 World Cup against Pakistan), what is your strategy to deal with batsmen of this type?

MM: We have strategies, when I was bowling then Shaheen would keep a close eye on the batsmen and offer tips as to potential weaknesses about the batsmen that may be targeted. 

DTG: After the Under-19 World Cup, there was a statement from Rahul Dravid praising you and Shaheen, stell us about that. 

MM: What happened was that I was quite disappointed after we lost the match to India so I quickly packed my bags and went and sat in the corner of the bus. I was looking around for a while because I couldn't find Shaheen. After a while, he showed up, so when he came in, I asked him where he went. He said that Rahul Dravid had called both of us, so I asked what did he say? Shaheen told me that he said that we're both very good bowlers and that within 2-3 years we should be playing international cricket.

DTG: Moving on, you're a fast-bowler and a pretty pacy one at that. Have you ever had the speed measured with a speed-gun? 

MM: I did that the first time a few months after starting to play club cricket. Shaheen was also there, though I didn't know him at the time. He had also come to the trials. He bowled one at around 126 or 127 kph while I was clocked at 136 kph, and this was right at the beginning. 

DTG: And then at the World Cup, you were consistently clocking 140 kph+, specially your spell at the death against India where you clocked 145 kph+. Do you have any plans to increase your pace or are you content with your current speed? 

MM: Not at all. Previously, going to the gym wasn't allowed for us but now that I have moved past the Under-19 level, I will start going to the gym etc. and I will ask about how to increase my pace. I asked Shoaib bhai about this and he said that I can increase my pace a further 10 kph, so insha'Allah I will work on this in future.

DTG: Fast-bowling requires a lot of effort. The Pakistan set-up is now very focused on fitness, so do you do any training or drills to maintain your fitness? 

MM: After the Under-19 stage, we had an emerging camp where I got to learn a lot about these aspects. Awareness was raised about injuries to fast-bowlers, recovery periods and other aspects. As for fitness, in my three-year long career so far, thanks to Allah, I haven't had any issues with injuries. Going forward, I will try my best to maintain fitness as injuries can be devastating for fast-bowlers.

DTG: Recently, you joined the SNGPL cricket team. Tell us about how you came to join them.

MM: What happened was that one day, I was routinely going to our cricket ground. I didn't know that Islamabad United had a camp at the ground. Players such as Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Misbah bhai, Waqar Younis, etc. were supposed to be there. As soon as I reached the ground, I saw their nets had begun and they asked me to also bowl a bit since I was there, so I thought why not, let me get some practice. I put in a lot of effort and Misbah bhai was impressed and liked what he saw, so he said that he'll get me to join his departmental team.

DTG: You have started playing domestic cricket, playing a few List A and first-class matches. How much difference have you noticed in the level of cricket after making the transition from junior cricket to the highest level of domestic cricket? 

MM: You definitely notice the difference as the teams have a lot of international players and you have to put in extra effort against them. They are also more experienced and there is also the aspect of added pressure.

DTG: You get to play alongside established cricketers, some of whom have represented Pakistan. How much do you get to learn from them, and how has the challenge been so far? 

MM: In the first couple of matches, there was obviously the fear in the heart of playing against such experienced players - how will I beat players who have played 40-50 FC games? This is all a mental thing, if you are mentally stronger than the opponent then you will win, if you're weaker then you will lose. I focused on my strengths. As for learning, in my debut match, Mohammad Abbas was there and took 12 wickets in the match so I got to learn a lot from him. I also asked him, how can I bowl at such a controlled line and length, like he does? He said that I am just starting out and that I will gain that with time. He pointed out that he's played 80+ FC games, so insha'Allah I will pick it up over a period of time. He said that I should focus on my own strengths for now. We have seniors like Misbah bhai in the team as well who provide a lot of insights and teach us a variety of things.

DTG: Of all the wickets so far, which one did you enjoy the most? 

MM: The most enjoyable ones were when I got Kamran Akmal and Salman Butt out, they are established cricketers.

DTG: A lot of emphasis is put on T20s nowadays. Which format do you consider a priority and your strongest format? 

MM: The toughest game is definitely five-day cricket. You have to hit the same area repeatedly in order to get the batsmen out. In T20s, you can use a lot of variations and one-day cricket nowadays which has modernised is very similar. But in my opinion, the toughest form of cricket is five-day cricket. If I play international cricket, I would like my debut to be in Test or one-day cricket.

DTG: Do you have any targets, as to when you aim to represent Pakistan in international cricket? 

MM: I hope to be picked by a PSL team, I think I have a 99% chance of being picked in the Emerging category. If I am picked, hopefully I can perform well and then make my way into the Pakistan team.

DTG: Which franchise would you like to play for in PSL? 

MM: No matter which franchise it is, I just have to perform well. Let's see what happens.

DTG: Moving towards a slightly different and more technical topic. You're a fast-bowler and Pakistani pitches aren't very conducive to fast-bowling. You don't get that much bounce or swing like you get in England or Australia. What is your strategy? Do you aim to pitch the ball up, or to bowl fast? Do you prefer bowling with the old ball, or you take the new ball? 

MM: My strategy is always to bowl with pace, I put a lot of effort into my bowling. I don't like holding back because in order to that, you need to learn the art. Currently, my strategy is bowl fast, specially bouncers.

DTG: Do you have any targets for the ongoing domestic season? 

MM: Definitely, insha'Allah I aim to pick up 18-20 wickets this season if it's possible.

DTG: Will we see you in action during the Pakistan A series against England Lions? 

MM: Insha'Allah, let's see if my name comes up in the squads.

DTG: Hopefully your name comes in the squad and we see you in action. Thank you, Musa, for joining us on the show, it was a pleasure speaking to you. Hope for the best, and hopefully we can see you in action in the coming few days. 

MM: Thank you so much.