Imran Nazir, born December 16, 1981, in Gujranwala, Punjab, Pakistan is one of the more aggressive and talented batsmen to come from Pakistan in the current decade. However, he has certainly not done justice to his full potential. A good back foot player, Nazir is known to be particularly lethal through the covers. Careless approach to batting, shoddy temperament and poor shot selection have been stumbling blocks for his cricketing flair to metamorphose into consistent performances on the cricket field. Owing to his inconsistency he has been constantly in and out of the side.  He is often considered as one of the most aggressive and skilled opening batsmen produced by Pakistan in the last 10 years. On his birthday, Bhaskar Narayan picks 11 interesting facts about the cricketer.

1. Cricket idol

Nazir’s role model is his elder brother Mushtaq Nazir. Mushtaq, born on Pakistan’s Independence Day in 1978 is three years elder to him. Mushtaq used to play for Gujranwala Cricket Association. He featured in three List A matches for Sheikhupura and had a lone appearance for Lahore Division in First-Class cricket. Mushtaq was Imran’s guiding force in the game and motivated him during difficult circumstances in both cricket and life.

2. Decent Test Debut

Nazir made his international debut as a 17-year-old in the third Test (played at Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore) of the Asian Test Championship against Sri Lanka in March 1999. The tournament also featured India as the third team. Although the Test ended in a draw, Nazir made a decent contribution of 64 and 13. He played his next Test match against West Indies the coming year and slammed 131 off 180 deliveries in the second innings. Owing to his poor show in subsequent Tests, he was dropped from the side. He has not played a Test since 2003. He has just 427 runs from eight Tests at 32.84 in Test cricket.

3. Third youngest to score ODI century

It was the fifth match of Cable & Wireless One Day International Series in 2000 and Nazir was only 18 years and 121 days old. He cracked an unbeaten 105-run knock chasing Zimbabwe’s 204 at Queen’s Park, St George’s, Grenada in West Indies to help Pakistan win by six wickets. He became the second youngest batsman after Shahid Afridi to crack an ODI hundred at that time. However, Nazir has failed to deliver on a consistent basis. He has only 1,895 runs from 79 ODIs at 24.61 with a strike rate of 81.01.

[Note: Afridi slammed the fastest century (off 37 balls) of that time at the age of 16 years and 217 days. With it, he also became the youngest batsman to hit an ODI century. Afghanistan batsman Usman Ghani carted 118 runs last year against Zimbabwe at Queen Sports Club Bolawayo. He was 17 years and 242 days old then. Thus, Nazir is the third youngest after Afridi and Ghani to hit a limited-overs hundred.]

4. Partnered Inzamam-ul-Haq in the latter’s triple hundred

Nazir made a 204-run third wicket stand with Inzamam Ul-Haq in the first Test of New Zealand’s tour to Pakistan in 2002. He made his second Test century while Inzamam went on to score a triple hundred becoming the second Pakistani batsman to do so after Hanif Mohammad.

5. Impressive T20 debut

Nazir played his first T20 for Sialkot Stallions on April 26, 2005. This was a Group B match against Lahore Eagles of ABN-AMRO Twenty-20 Cup. The right-hander blasted 54 off just 19 deliveries helping Stallions post 210. But Salman Butt’s 67 off 50 and Waqas Ahmed’s cameo of 46 in 25 odd balls helped Eagles chase down the score; the match went down to the wire. Nazir has played 102 T20s so far in which he averages 28.22 at a sumptuous strike rate of 149.14. He has accumulated 2,540 runs in T20s.

6. Innings which sealed Nazir’s place in ICC Cricket World Cup 2007

In the second ODI of Pakistan’s tour to South Africa in February 7, 2007, Nazir scored a quickfire 75 in only 39 balls helping Pakistan register 351 batting first. South Africa, in reply bundled out for 210. Thus, Pakistan scripted a thumping 141-run victory. This swashbuckling knock ultimately helped him get picked for the 50-over World Cup next month.

7. Excellent performance in Indian Cricket League (ICL)

Nazir emerged as the top run-scorer in ICL 2008-09 with 392 runs (from 12 T20s) at an average of 43.55 and a strike rate of 175.78. In best of three finals against Hyderabad Heroes, he carted a dazzling unbeaten 111 in 44-odd balls helping Lahore Badshahs win by eight wickets. Thus, Badshahs won the inaugural season of ICL, which also happened to be the last. His 111 not-out was the highest score of the tournament and he struck 11 sixes in his knock making him hold the record for most sixes by a batsman in an innings in ICL.

Earlier, he had also scored a flamboyant 83 in 38 balls in the 16th match of ICL 2008-09. He hit nine sixes in this knock making him also hold the record for second most sixes hit in an innings after his 11 sixes in the final.

8. Second highest individual score by a Pakistani batsman in ODIs

In a Group D match played at Sabina Park, Kingston against Zimbabwe in ICC Cricket World Cup 2007, Nazir carted a brilliant 160 runs off 121 balls to help Pakistan post 349. In reply, Zimbabwe folded on 99 chasing a revised target of 193 in 20 overs as per Duckworth-Lewis (D/L) method. Pakistan won the match by 93 runs (D/L method). This is the highest individual score by a Pakistani in limited overs cricket after Saeed Anwar’s phenomenal 194 against India at Chennai in 1997. He struck eight sixes in his knock equalling Ricky Ponting’s record for most shots which dispatched the ball over the ropes. This was also the highest individual score in ODIs in West Indies bettering Desmond Haynes’ 152 not-out off 126 balls against India in the fifth ODI of India’s tour to West Indies 1989 at Bourda, Georgetown in Guyana.

[Note: Anwar’s record stood for more than a decade. Today, he is jointly placed at seventh spot with Zimbabwe’s Charles Coventry. Today there are six double century knocks ahead of Anwar and Coventry. Sachin Tendulkar was the first who broke the 200-run barrier. He made an unbeaten 200 in 2010 versus South Africa. Topping the charts is Rohit Sharma’s 264 against Sri Lanka last year. Today, the record for highest individual score in West Indies is held by Upul Tharanga who made an unbeaten 174 against India in 2013 at the same venue. Thus, Nazir holds the record for the second highest individual score in an ODI innings in Caribbean after Tharanga. Third in the list is Matthew Hayden with his 158-run knock against West Indies in Super Eights of the same World Cup in March 2007. Hayden cracked 158 at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua only a few days after Nazir’s 160]

9. Helped Pakistan reach Super Eights in ICC World T20 2012

Nazir blasted a half century in just 25 deliveries in a league match against Bangladesh of ICC World T20 2012. He went on to score 72 off 36 balls at a strike rate of 200. This was the second highest strike rate (after Umar Akmal’s 206.45) by a Pakistani for a score of above 50 runs in T20Is. His knock gave Pakistan an eight-wicket victory. Nazir has represented Pakistan in 25 T20Is and has scored exactly 500runs. He averages 21.73 and has a strike rate of 135.13.

[Note: Akmal had carted 64 off 31 balls against Australia in the first T20I of MCC Spirit of Cricket T20I series. His knock had helped Pakistan win by 23 runs.]

10. 189-run knock in President’s Cup One-Day Tournament in 2013

Nazir has not played international cricket since November 2012. His inconsistency has forced the selectors to ignore him for the last three years. However, in a List A 45-over match played on November 5, 2013 (at National Ground, Islamabad) of President’s Cup One-Day Tournament, he struck a scintillating 189 off only 83 deliveries helping Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) post 367. The match was against Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) and his innings helped ZTBL record a 109-run victory. This is not just his highest List A score but also his highest in any format viz. First-Class, Tests, ODIs, T20Is and T20s. The distinct feature of his innings was that he scored more than thrice that of the second highest scorer for ZTBL Haris Sohail, who made 58 runs. Add to it, ZTBL did not succeed in playing the 45 overs and were bowled out in 41.2 overs. In reply, SNGPL too folded for 258 in 36 overs itself. Besides Nazir, other key players in the match were Yasir Hameed, Sharjeel Khan, Abdul Razzaq, Zafar Gohar and Imran Khan for ZTBL. SNGPL had cricketers like Azhar Ali, Yasir Shah and Asad Ali.

11. Shares his birthday with Danish Kaneria

Pakistan’s legbreak bowler Danish Kaneria was also born on December 16 a year earlier to Nazir’s year of birth.

(Bhaskar Narayan is a reporter at CricketCountry and Criclife. He passionately follows the game and is a big fan of Sachin Tendulkar. His Twitter handle is @Cricopathy)