DTG Interviews Saif Badar
DTG: Tell us about your journey when it comes to Cricket. How did you develop an interest in it?
Saif: My father was very passionate about Cricket just like I was. He took me to a Cricket ground for the first time when I was about 9 years old and in the 3rd Grade. I started playing cricket from that point onward. I kept competing in the trials for the Under 16 team and finally got selected after trying for 2-3 years. After a while, I started playing Under 19 Cricket and managed to do well in it. I then proceeded to play on a regional level and got selected for the camp before the U-19 Sri Lanka tour squad. I was amongst the 20 players that were selected. I also got an opportunity to play 3-day games, after which I got selected for the U-19 World Cup. Before the World Cup took place, we also played a tri-series with Australia and New Zealand in Dubai, after which we went to Bangladesh for the World Cup.
DTG: Was there any specific performance in the U19 one day series which caught the eye of the selectors?
Saif: Before the U-19 World Cup, there were U-19 One Day games in which I managed to perform well. I went to Sri Lanka as a reserve player. I played 3-Day matches in which, by the grace of god, I performed well. Because of these performances, I managed to break into the pool of 30 players for the U-19 World Cup. They set up a camp for all of us players in which I managed to score runs in the practice games as well. This helped me cement my spot for the Under-19 World Cup as well as for the tri-series before it.
DTG: You made 75 runs in 80 balls in the 5th place play-off against England. You hit five 4s and three 6s. When you compete at that level against teams, do you feel the difference between junior and U19 cricket? Is there a noticeable step up?
Saif: You absolutely feel the difference. Luckily, the tri-series we had in Dubai against Australia and NZ helped me get a good start before the world cup. I had made scores of 99* and 53 in that series, which helped my confidence a lot. The match against England was our last match in the World Cup and my mindset was such that I wanted to go out with a bang. Thankfully, I managed to perform well in that match.
DTG: I was personally watching that match. There was a fast bowler bowling around 140+ kph. You were able to hit him over extra cover and mid off. Do you think playing straight down the ground is your strong suit?
Saif: I believe that I hit the ball quite well around the mid-on and mid-off regions. Before the match against England, we also played against Nepal where I scored 88 runs. Therefore, I was really confident when I batted against England. As soon as I went to the crease, I knew I had to play positive Cricket as we were chasing 270 odd. I hit a few good shots in the beginning of the innings which helped me settle in early and allowed me to finish the game. I was very pleased with the fact that I managed to finish the game for us.
DTG: I have noticed that you bat till the end and finish the game and win it for your team. Did you learn to bat under pressure from your days in junior Cricket or is this some innate ability to not feel any pressure when the going gets tough?
Saif: To be honest, I feel that I used to be able to finish games more often in the Under 19 days. After the U-19 World Cup, I couldn’t finish as many games as I’d like in the domestic circuit. I used to get out after getting a start. I then went to my club and I tried to work on this issue and sought assistance from some of the senior players at the club. I told them that I would normally get out after reaching 30-35 runs. The seniors then helped me overcome my deficiencies and worked with me on my issues.Thankfully, I am regaining the ability to finish more matches in the current domestic season.
DTG: Talking about domestic cricket, you represent KRL. How has this journey to KRL been? Did they pick you from U19?
Saif: After my Under 19 days, I spent one year with SSGC. SSGC was a great team and have many good players that play for them to this day. You get less chances to play for a team with such a huge number of players as the competition is tough. I didn’t get to play for SSGC for the entire year. After that, I decided to join a department where I would get more chances to play since a player only learns and improves when he gets to play. I then joined KRL and I got several chances to play for the team. By the grace of god, I am getting the chances to work on my game and I can see that my game is improving day by day.
DTG: You just mentioned that you learned a lot from playing at KRL. Are there any coaches at KRL that specifically guide you there or any players/people who personally help you out and give you advice?
Saif: I have learnt a lot from coaches and senior players throughout my career, both at the departmental level and at the club for which I play for in Sialkot. Whichever team I play for, I always try to learn as much as I can from the senior players. Every team has senior players and I always try to take home some batting tips and guidance from these players about how to play in different match situations. Shoaib Malik, Haris Sohail and a bunch of other senior players also play for the same club as me in Sialkot. I always learn as much as I can from these players and because of that, there is a continuous improvement in my game.
DTG: You said that the learning process is always ongoing. Which batting position do you see yourself in? Are you a top order or middle order batsman?
Saif: In the current tournament in domestics, I’m playing in the lower middle order. I personally prefer playing at number 3-4 but the team management decided that I should play down the order. I am doing well at the moment and what’s great is that I have been able to finish 3 matches so far in this season.
DTG: In your career so far, which was the toughest game you have played at the domestic level?
Saif: In this season, there were 2 instances where the other teams were winning in a quite one-sided manner but I managed to score vital runs and finish those games for my team. There was a match against FATA where in the last 10 overs, 90 runs were needed and two wickets were left. The game kept going on and we needed 50 runs in 6 overs. In 4 overs we needed ~30 runs and there was only 1 wicket left. We still managed to chase the total down with one over remaining. It was very fun to finish that game off.
DTG: You scored 58 in 29 balls in one of the games, which is a strike rate of 200. That was a very close game. You also had a very good performance against Islamabad!
Saif: In the game vs Islamabad, we had to make 290 runs and we had lost 6 wickets for ~140 runs. I still managed to finish the match with the tail enders. The Abbottabad match was very tough and only 1 wicket was left, which made that win even more pleasing.
DTG: What exactly is the secret to your chasing and finishing ability?
Saif: I feel that the reason I have been able to chase targets and finish games this season more consistently is because I went back to play club cricket where I learnt a lot from the coaches and the players. I had to do this since I was struggling last year and couldn’t get past 30s and 40s. The PSL especially helped me as I got to learn a lot from the big players that played in the tournament.
DTG: You’ve told us what was your toughest game yet. Who is the toughest bowler you have faced in domestic cricket?
Saif: To be honest, no one has really felt like the toughest bowler so far. Because of the number that I bat at, it’s the bowlers who are trying to save themselves from you. They are on the back foot during that phase in the innings so I don’t really feel that any bowler is that tough.
DTG: That means you smash the bowlers around?
Saif: I feel like I have been dominating the bowlers this season because whenever I come in, the bowlers feels like they need to bowl economical spells where they focus a lot on yorkers and slower ones.
DTG: Can you tell us a bit more about your experience at Multan Sultans? You batted in 2 games against IU, 1 against KK and 1 against LQ. Since there are international cricketers from around the world in the PSL, how big of a step up is it from domestics? Were there any specific preparations that you undertook to cope with the pressure?
Saif: PSL is Pakistan’s biggest league and I was very excited when I was about to play for Multan Sultans. When I played in the tournament, I couldn’t perform as well as I wanted. Nevertheless, I learnt a lot from the management, coaching staff and senior players. I’d definitely say that a lot of the credit for my performances in this domestic season goes to the PSL and the people who I learnt a lot from. I learnt a lot from Kumar Sangakkara, Shoaib Malik, Kieron Pollard and many other players. During net practice, I sat with Tom Moody several times and I spoke to him about my game. He guided me a lot and it helped me improve for which I thank the PSL a lot.
DTG: Did you also work with Wasim Akram?
Saif: I still think fondly about the fact that I got to work with a man of such an iconic stature as Wasim Akram. I had only seen him on TV when he used to bowl and deliver those magical spells. The first time I met him, I was extremely starstruck and I can’t find the words to explain how happy I was.
DTG: Shoaib Malik is also from your city of Sialkot. He used to play for Sialkot and you have played under his captaincy. Do you receive guidance from him?
Saif: I definitely get lots of guidance from Shoaib Malik. We play for the same club. What’s most admirable about him is the fact that he always plays for the Sialkot club whenever he is free and in Sialkot. Because of this, all the young players get to absorb crucial batting tips and advice from him.
DTG: Shahid Afridi is a legend of Pakistan. In PSL 2018, you hit Shahid Afridi for a six and then he got you out. Afridi then gave you a send off which we all heard thanks to the stump mic. Thoughts on that?
Saif: Shahid bhai is a legend of Pakistan and is renowned around the world as a Cricketer. During the match, I was excited to face him. I played a rash shot and got out against him. I didn’t personally find his sendoff insulting. For a young batsman, it’s important to realize that all the players are equal out on the field. There is no concept of a player being younger/older than another player. After that incident, I learnt that everyone is equal out on the field. Since the incident took place, lots of people ask me what exactly happened out in the middle. I always say that I wasn’t even paying any attention to him after I got out. I was too busy being regretful about the fact that I played a horrible shot and got out!
DTG: Is it difficult to play Shahid Afridi given that he is a leg spinner? Can you pick up on his rhythm?
Saif: In the PSL, Shahid Afridi is, without a doubt, a brilliant bowler. He has made so many records and has gotten the wickets of batsmen from around the world.
DTG: Are you more comfortable playing spinners or pacers?
Saif: You’ve seen me in U19. What have you noticed?
DTG: I have perceived that your back foot game is brilliant and your front and extra cover shots are very good. You hit over the offside very nicely as well. In my opinion, you play spinners and fast bowlers at the same level on the back foot. Do you feel that your flow comes better against fast bowlers or spin bowlers?
Saif: I feel that I play fast bowling and spin bowling equally well.
DTG: Is there anything in particular that you feel that you need to improve? Any weaknesses in your batting that you want to get rid of?
Saif: Cricket is evolving at an extremely quick rate and new shots are being introduced at a rapid rate. You always need to work with coaches to fine tune elements of your batting.
DTG: What is your preferred format?
Saif: Since I am still a youngster, I just try to make do with whatever formats or conditions I get a chance to play in. I won’t play a four-day game like a one day game. You must know how to play different types of games to succeed and must have a proper mindset for all these different formats. I also believe that I have the ability to play big shots. Lots of people tell me that if I take time to settle at the beginning of an innings, I will find batting easier. I am also playing first class cricket at the moment. I have been doing well in the One Day format and hopefully I can translate this success into the 4 day format as well.
DTG: In the modern game, there is a lot of emphasis on fitness. What do you do for your own fitness? Any trainers or diet plans?
Saif: Cricket requires you to be extremely physically fit these days. During the off-season, I dedicate time to gym training as well as ground training. If you are physically fit, then your fielding will also naturally improve and so will your batting. Your fitness can also make up a bit for any issues with your temperament. I am also working on my diet plan with my trainer and I also ask my trainer about what exercises to do and how to train.
DTG: Coming back to domestic cricket, you had a really good performance against HBL in FC recently. You were facing Mir Hamza, who has debuted recently for Pakistan as well as the likes of Hammad Azam, who has also played for Pakistan. You managed to score a fifty. You had a year’s gap after that match. How do you keep yourself match fit and focused during that time?
Saif: As a professional, we don’t just have one cricket season where we play First Class Cricket. After the FC season, we have club cricket. My club in Sialkot is quite active across the whole year so I often play 3-4 times in a week with them. I train daily and this process goes on throughout the year so there is no problem in that aspect.
DTG: There is a goal for each youngster to make the international squad. What are your long term goals or targets? Are there any specific goals that you have set?
Saif: My goal is to play cricket for the Pakistan National team and play for them for a long time. There are a lot of opportunities to play first class and domestic cricket and I feel that as long as I perform well, I can achieve these goals. By the grace of god, I am performing well right now. I don’t have a specific time frame in mind for when I want to achieve these goals, but I just want to make sure that I perform well whenever I get a chance and that I improve day by day.
DTG: What has been your best performance as of yet?
Saif: I had quite a few good performances in U19. Looking back to the Dubai tri-series, I had made 99 against New Zealand which was important because that was a do or die match. We would’ve lost the series if we had lost that match and therefore I enjoyed that knock under pressure. Against England, I had scored 75 and helped chase down that total of 270. The innings against Islamabad and FATA this season were also very important. Whenever I play an innings, I just aim to one up my previous innings. I think this is an most important mindset to have.