Bowling on rough pitches in Kashmir periphery helped him to hone his skills and get noticed by a coach. Many years later, Umar Nazir is ranked No 2 bowler in India in Ranji hierarchy and is waiting to be inducted into IPL, this season, reports Aakash Hassan
The rolling of cricket ball would absorb the young toddler’s mind while he was chasing his elder cousins on the rough turf of his village in south Kashmir. To ensure that he does not miss a game, he would carry their equipments like a caddie does in golf. As his elders would play, the kid would enjoy the game as a spectator.
As his seniors left the pitch in pursuit of their careers, Umar Nazir Mir’s interest remained unchanged for what he calls ‘the gentelmen’s game’. Eventually as teen he was inducted into a local team at exceptional level.
His interest in cricket deepened with every ball he bowled on the rough unkempt pitches in the periphery. The passion for the game became almost his aim in life and he did not know till it happened. Mir, a resident of Malikpora Pulwama turned out to be a known as an exceptional bowler of his belt. His first recognition came from the local veterans who showered him with best wishes, everytime they watched him in the field.
Then a major event in his life happened in 2008 when he was spotted by Mushtaq Ahmad, coach at Ranji trophy and a man with years of training experience.
“While he was practicing in the net, his action caught my eye,” says Mushtaq. “I didn’t wait for even a while and made a call to him.”
This was the time when he was participating in tournaments through his school and at local informal level gaining him valued space in J&K cricket Academy.
“By the time I joined my twelfth class, I could not find any love except cricket,” says Umar, “After school I would spend all the day at the field in my jersey.” It was a huge group of boys who saw cricket as the only expression of their capacity. They would play late till it was really difficult to see where the ball has gone.
These efforts paid him well. By 2009-10 he began playing at national level in the state’s junior cricket team. He showed his fineness in the bowling at the very first national tournament by taking seven wickets in the first innings at Unna (Himachal Pardesh). Then there was no looking back. He counts his successes by breaking the stumps.
The next big record was created in his career when he got 37 wickets in seven innings during 2012-13 national tournaments. Then, he could feel that when fingers are being raised towards him, these are of appreciation and not suspicion.
While playing in CK Nayudu trophy match against at GGM Science College Hostel Ground, in Jammu, Umar went on to dance the red ball against the Assam team and created history by taking 9 wickets in the innings.
“Umar was simply hell-bent upon to either knock the rival batsmen’s heads off or their wickets down to help his team enjoy a driver’s seat at stumps,” a Jammu newspaper in a report carried that day in a report.
In the five matches of the same tournament he got 35 wickets, stunning all his opponents.
Six feet four inch, tough fisted man went to Ranji and remained colorful for the state and till now has played around 20 matches.
By his sheer performance he has been categorized as number one wicket taker in north-India in the national levels. His all India rank is No 2, however.
The right arm fast bowler has also played under BCCI and attended camps of National Cricket Academy. Moreover he was also invited for the camping of Indian Premier League (IPL).
The 23-year-old Pulwama youth, is rising as one of the finest new bowlers of India.
“My success is because of my seriousness,” Umar told this reporter in Jammu. “While others in my team were playing I was learning with every play.” “If I would find some problem in my bowling I would work on it than playing more and more for mere enjoyment,” insists Umar, who is about to complete his graduation. A full time cricketer, Umar is pursuing his studies through IGNOU.
Belonging to a middle class family that is into timber business, Umar, the only son of his parents, says cricket is his “lifetime partner”.
“When my parents saw my hard work in the game and then subsequently the achievements, at a certain point, they understood that I should be given support,” Umar said. After his efforts, he gives full credit to his parents for their exceptional support.
Umar says that his passion for the game has made his family a cricket expert group. “My mother discusses with me that ball bumped more on this pitch and it was fast on that,” Umar says with a smile of satisfaction.
Inspired by Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath he aspires to play for the Indian cricket team.
His coach Mushtaq says Umar has great potential and hopefully can rise as a new star.
“He was different than others when I picked him from Srinagar,” Mushtaq said, recalling the day when he admitted him in a cricket academy in Mumbai. “He was molded outside and got the exposure.”
Umar also plays for the TATA sports club Mumbai and is now waiting for the upcoming IPL, hopeful of getting inducted. BCCI has certified him as a cricketer with highest number of dot balls. That must make things happen for him. His spectacular track record has already fetched him entry into North Zone Squad for Syed Mushtaq Ali T-20 tournament, a team with players from J&K, Delhi, Himachal, Punjab, Haryana and Services. Ace cricketer Harbhajan Singh is heading the Squad. Two other young cricketers from J&K, Shubham Khajuria and Manzoor Dar were included in the squad as stand-by players.