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"Proud to Have Shahid Afridi in the Team" Khurram Manzoor Interview

Shahid Afridi in action
Shahid Afridi in action

Having represented Pakistan in 26 matches, the Karachi-born opening batsman Khurram Manzoor is a key member of the Karachi Kings squad in the ongoing PSL 3 tournament.

In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Khurram Manzoor spoke about being selected to play for Karachi Kings, the experience of playing alongside Shahid Afridi, his thoughts on team Coach Mickey Arthur and how a successful performance in PSL 3 could improve his chances of playing in the 2019 World Cup.

PakPassion.net: What are your thoughts on playing Test cricket given that lately you seem to be concentrating on the shorter formats of the game?

Khurram Manzoor: My views on this issue are simple and are a result of the coaching setup I have been a part of all my life. I've been taught that no matter what format you are playing, you have to try to apply yourself in it and to do the best in whatever format you play in. We all know that Pakistan plays less Test cricket compared to other nations, so as players we don’t have too many choices and have to get on with whatever opportunities we can get to play cricket. What we need to make sure is that when we do get that chance, we perform to the best of our abilities and make the most of that opportunity.

PakPassion.net: Does it worry you that by playing one type of cricket, you will be tagged as a specialist for that format?

Khurram Manzoor: A great player is one that knows how to perform according to the match situation. If you play accordingly to the situation, then people won't assign tags to you about being a Test or LOI cricket specialist. As for me, I've been amongst the top scorers in the last two domestic tournaments held in Pakistan. I was part of the Karachi Whites team which recently won the Regional One-Day Cup and was the joint second-highest run-scorer in that tournament. And in the National T20 Cup before that, I scored a century and had 246 runs to my name in six matches. There are a lot of factors that matter when it comes to be a good player, but the most important one is how a player works hard and and prepares during the off-season for the upcoming season. All that hard work usually pays off in the end and my aim is to be mentally prepared for any format. I don’t want to be termed a specialist in any one format, instead I want to be mentally prepared for, and have the right training for all formats including Tests, One-Days, T20s or even T10 which is a newer format of the game.

PakPassion.net: Were you surprised by your selection for Karachi Kings?

Khurram Manzoor: I wasn't really surprised because in the past 5 years, I've often managed to be amongst the top 3 run scorers or close to it in T20 tournaments. Karachi Region for which I play, have played in several finals, although we have one just one title. I've been a part of the playing team for all those tournaments which is a testament to my consistent performances. I've been such an integral part of their setup that I haven’t been dropped till now. I am now taking part in our nation's premier cricket tournament, and it stands to reason that because I've been amongst the top performers in domestic cricket, one of the franchises has picked me up. So, there is nothing surprising about my selection for Karachi Kings because if you are amongst the top 300 players of your country, then you will surely be included in the draft and more than likely make it to one of the teams in the PSL. I am of course honoured and proud that it is Karachi, the city of my birth, which has selected me for their team. 

PakPassion.net: What’s the spirit in the Karachi Kings team like at the moment?

Khurram Manzoor: I'm never make big claims before playing any tournament as I know that success is in the hands of the Almighty, but we are all very confident of doing well in this year’s PSL. Last year, Karachi made some mistakes that we are looking to rectify, and each individual player is looking to avoid making those mistakes. I am also pleased in the way our management is supporting us and the way the team is gelling together. What is also impressive is Imad Wasim’s captaincy and the influence of our Coach Mickey Arthur, and the presence and contribution of seniors like Shahid Afridi and Ravi Bopara as well as Colin Ingram which altogether explains the success that we have achieved so far. 

Remember that cricket is a team game unlike other sports like tennis and squash where an individual performs well and gets the job done. Even the players who are benched have an important role as their eagerness to win and their prayers have enabled us to perform so well. The team is fighting every inch to win, and one cannot ask more from a group of players. 

PakPassion.net: How different is the pressure of playing in a Twenty20 League compared to that you would have experienced when playing for Pakistan?

Khurram Manzoor: Playing for Pakistan is always an honour and a matter of pride. There is more pressure playing for Pakistan as compared to playing in a Twenty20 league. But regardless of which level you play in, what really matters is how you prepare for the task ahead. There are many players who start preparing 2 or 3 months before a league or series and then there are players who start prepping 6 months beforehand, which is what I prefer to do. I plan out what I have to do and learn during the 6 months leading up to the start of the series or tournament. This preparation includes weight reduction, cardio, training, diet, batting etc. The fact is that if all these things are done properly then it can make a world of difference for the player regardless of whether you are representing your country or a franchise like Karachi Kings.

PakPassion.net: How is it like to be playing alongside Shahid Afridi?

Khurram Manzoor: There is no doubt in my mind that Shahid Afridi is an inspiration for all of us. Everyone who observes him has something to learn from him. He puts in more energy than most youngsters and his presence, intensity and passion on the field is something which others can learn a lot from. He is a very good team man and whenever there is a tough situation for the team, he steps in and always chips in with valuable advice to the captain and players alike. In my view, the mark of a truly great player is in the manner in which he can pass on valuable knowledge to others around him, which is something Shahid Bhai does very often. Salman Iqbal, owner of Karachi Kings, recently said that he always wanted Shahid Afridi to play for Karachi Kings and I am sure that the people of Karachi also want him to play for their city and win them the trophy. We are proud to have Shahid Afridi in our team and he has been an inspiration for us on the field and I hope he continues to do well for us till the end of the tournament. 

PakPassion.net: How does it feel to work with the Head Coach of the Pakistani Cricket team, Mickey Arthur?

Khurram Manzoor: We are extremely fortunate to have Mickey as our coach. He is a very good at what he does and works on all facets of the game with players. He talks to each player individually, no matter whether he is a spinner, a middle order batsman or an opener. He knows how to assign roles to players for each match and if the player isn't sure then he will encourage the player to ask him to clarify any doubts. A lot of coaches tell the players the game plan but don't guide players individually about their roles. What Mickey does is go the extra mile and provide further insight into what is expected of each player and encourages them to fulfil that role, regardless of whether team wins or loses. 

Mickey makes meticulous plans for all the players before each game with details of what a player must do during different phases of the game. In this way, he won't burden the captain with handling the whole team by himself and provides excellent support for the skipper. We have all seen on TV screens how involved and proactive he is with the team and he is always involved with the support staff during training, whether it is with the bowling coach or fielding coach. 

PakPassion.net: Do you think that if you do well in PSL 3, it will improve your chances of playing for Pakistan in the 2019 World Cup?

Khurram Manzoor: Every player desires to do well and to achieve great feats and represent his nation in an ICC tournament. But, I believe that the 2019 World Cup is a little too far in the future. The main thing for me right now is to keep it simple and not to repeat the same mistakes as I have done in the past. My aim is to take this opportunity of playing in the PSL to make a case for the national team, but then I also know that to burden myself by that pressure is counter-productive and not fair to Karachi Kings as well. For now, I am focusing on the present and I am trying my best to stay in-form and consistent. Insha'Allah if I continue like this, then I will automatically make a case for the national side which would be an excellent outcome for me.

PakPassion.net: Do the players feel excited when they think about the Karachi team reaching the finals in Karachi itself?

Khurram Manzoor: Yes, we all definitely feel very excited about the prospect of playing the final in Karachi. We have made a pledge to Salman Iqbal that we will play top-level cricket and will do our best to try to reach the finals. Obviously, we feel the goosebumps when we think about lifting the trophy in front of thousands of our fans in Karachi. Having personally experienced such a moment during the Regional One-Day Cup, I can tell you that no words can do justice when describing such an experience. We will continue to try our hardest to win and if we do win, then everyone will be able to witness such celebrations by us, insha'Allah.