The Rise of Mighty Samad

Jammu & Kashmir has a rich cricketing history, playing Ranji Trophy for the first time in 1959-60. However, it has  been one of the weakest teams in the Indian domestic season winning a handful of matches played so far. It has qualified for the knockout stages of India’s premier domestic competition in 2001-02 and 2013-14.

Parvez Rasool was the first J&K cricketer who was picked in the Indian Premier League and in the Indian team as well. Other players from the now Union Territory are Manzoor Dar and Rasikh Salam, who were picked by Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians respectively. In the recently concluded IPL 2020, Sunrisers Hyderabad picked one more J&K player in 18-year-old Abdul Samad, who made his FC debut in December 2019 against Uttarakhand.

Abdul Samad is the son of physical education (PE) master Mohammad Farooq. His father himself was an outstanding volleyball player and played cricket at club level in the former state of Jammu and Kashmir. Coming from a humble background, Farooq managed to provide Samad coaching under the patronage of MA Stadium Coaching Centre, and is trained by Sports Council’s Cricket Coach, Randhir Singh Manhas and his assistant Raman Thaploo.

Samad has been performing admirably for J&K at both the U16 and U19 levels. He scored a couple of fifties and also took a couple of five-wicket hauls for J&K in the Under-19 national event. Four of five half-centuries he scored at junior level came in less than 40 balls, evidence of his attacking nature of the batsmanship.

Samad is flexible in his batting position and is equally competent at opening the innings or batting in the middle order. He can also tweak the ball if needed, as he is more than a handy leg-spinner with three wickets to his name in national limited-overs cricket.

Samad came into news for scoring 68 runs in just 52 balls against Gujarat in national 50-over competition Vijay Hazare Trophy 2019-20 at KL Saini Ground in Jaipur. He hit 7 sixes in that innings, out of which 5 came off the bowlers of international repute.

Piyush Chawla, who was a member of Team India which won the 2011 World Cup at home was hit with disdain for four sixes, while Axar Patel, member of the Indian squad for the 2015 World Cup, was hit for one six. It got him national attention and helped J&K put up a formidable 279/8 in 50 overs.

His latest accomplishment came when Jammu & Kashmir defeated heavyweights Maharashtra in their Group C encounter played at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune. He had managed a duck in the first innings as J&K made 209 runs. But they fought back by bowling out Maharashtra for 109 runs.

But in the second innings, he helped Suryansh Raina (83) and Fazil Rashid (43) with amazingly bold innings of 78 runs in just 89 balls. He hit 10 attractive fours and 3 lofty sixes during his time at the pitch. He was the last Jammu and Kashmir wicket to fall at 263 and helped in setting a target of 364 runs for Maharashtra.

The home team managed just 309 runs as Umar Nazir picked 9 wickets in the match and lost the encounter by 54 runs, handing J&K a big and famous win. This was a big win for them, as they had previously beaten Mumbai in 2015-16 at Wankhede Stadium in what can be termed as an upset.

Abdul Samad has gained a lot from India all-rounder Irfan Pathan who joined J&K as a coach-cum-mentor sometime ago and has the luck of playing with the experienced Parvez Rasool. He had made a brilliant T20 debut against Nagaland in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in February 2019.

He had picked a wicket of Nitesh Lohchab as Nagaland batted first and then opened the batting and scored 76* in just 51 balls with 8 boundaries and 3 sixes to his name. He was not only successful in the shorter formats of the game but even in the longer formats as well, as in Ranji season 2019-20, he was  the highest six hitter in the tournament by hitting 36 mighty sixes . He ended the season with 592 in 10 matches with a magnificent strike rate of 113.

He had entered his name in the uncapped category at the base price of 20 lakhs and was picked by Sunrisers Hyderabad for the same price. It will be a learning experience for the young Samad, who can pick the brains of mentor VVS Laxman and has foreign players like David Warner, Kane Williamson, and Jonny Bairstow to learn from about batting at the top and in limited-overs.

As SRH had lost two of its opening maches of the tournament  because of the weak batting display, they were in need of a finisher, for the same role they had included Abdul Samad in their palying IX against mighty Delhi Capitalsin their last match. Straight away Mr Samad showed his hitting capability when he hit Nortje in 19th over of the inning for a four and a huge six and ended the SRH,s inning on 163. As SRH were able to post a decent total in this match they trashed Delhi Capitals with 15 runs and opened their account in the points table as well. I hope Samad will continue to entertain us and inspire the youth of the UT .wish him Good Luck for the rest of the tournament and the wonderful career ahead.