Sohail Khan, Pakistan’s star on the first day of the third Test at Edgbaston, makes an interesting story with his pebble-throwing to build muscles as a youth and lifting a strong man on his back to suffer a stress fracture.
Five years after his last Test, Sohail Wednesday retruned to the longer format with an impressive 5-96 against England, justifying his selectio over a much accomplished Wahab Riaz.
Sohail, 32, removed opener Alex Hales (17), Joe Root (three), James Vince (39) and Jonny Bairstow (12) to destroy England’s top-order in an aggressive display of fast bowling after Pakistan opted to field.
That is for someone who is playing only his third Test since making debut at Karachi seven years ago and coming a long way since a troubled boyhood.
Sohail used to thorw rocks down mountains and train by swimming across rivers and streams in his hometown of Malakand, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
His selection for this tour raised many an eyebrows as 22-year-old Ehsan Adil was favourite to borad the plane to UK but selectors found Sohail better and hungry.
Since his last Test in 2011, Sohail was out of radar until his surprise inclusion in Pakistan’s 15-man squad for the 2015 World Cup. He was selected from nowhere, a few hours from the announcement of the squad.
Former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif described Sohail as “gate crashing” his way into contention after a string of impressive performances in domestic cricket.
“He has gate-crashed into the World Cup squad,” said Latif, credited for grooming the raw talent of Khan in his domestic team, Port Qasim.
But he again proved his selection with a five-for in Pakistan’s much hyped match against arch-rivals India at Adelaide, albeit in the lost cause.
Sohail had taken 64 wickets in Pakistan’s domestic season 2014-15 and got ten wickets in a one-day event – an impressive show which forced him into the World Cup squad at the expense of unfit Umar Gul.
But it hasn’t been an easy ride for the well-built Sohail.
As a youngster, dreaming of making a name for himself, Khan used to throw stones down the hills in Malakand agency – the mountainous tribal area in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province – to build muscle to bowl fast.
Deprived of basic cricket facilities, Sohail initially played with a tennis ball.
“I grew up with a desire to make my name in cricket,” Khan said last year.”We did not have any facility to play the game like a ground or a gym so someone told me that if I throw stones over a distance I could build my muscle to bowl fast.”
Routine swims in the streams and rivers in the tribal area helped further build the body.
A relative then told Khan to try his luck in Karachi where he was spotted in a talent hunt programme before he landed in the safe hands of Latif who honed the tribal talent in his academy. “I owe a great deal to Latif,” said Khan. “He told me how to use the new ball and how to use different tricks as a fast bowler. What I am today is because of him.”
Playing for Sui Southern Gas Corporation, Khan took an astonishing 65 wickets in his debut first-class season in 2007, with eight five-wicket hauls. If that was not enough he recorded the best match figures in a first-class game in Pakistan with 16-189, which broke the long-standing record of Fazal Mahmood who once took 15-76.
That was enough to give Khan a place in the national team in the one-day series against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh at home in 2008.
A return of four wickets in three matches wasn’t enough to cement his place and in the next three years he managed to play three more one-dayers, two Tests and three Twenty20s, the last in Zimbabwe in 2011.
But after a successful World Cup, Sohail hurt his back in a bizzare incident.
He put a bet with friends on lifting a strong man on his back and run only to break his back. It riled Pakistan Cricket Board medical officer who initially refused to treat him.
Sohail, though, worked hard to regian fitness and his reward has finally come at Edgbaston.