x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Aamer has his sights on being one of the greats

Pakistan youngster is being touted as the next Akram and he can be forgiven for thinking big after his knock of 73.

ABU DHABI // Mohammed Aamer can be forgiven for thinking big. He is still only 17, but has quickly established himself as the leader of the Pakistan bowling attack, and he already has a World Twenty20 winners medal to show for it. He has even been touted as the new Wasim Akram by no less an authority than the man himself. Now he wants to be the next Adam Gilchrist as well - without the wicket-keeping gloves, presumably.

He did his very best Gilchrist impression during a brutal display of late-order hitting against New Zealand on Monday night, which nearly brought about the most remarkable victory in the history of one-day international cricket. He hopes his thrilling unbeaten 73, which brought an impossible triumph to within eight runs of coming to pass, is a sign of even greater things to come. "My vision is to become one of the best all-rounders in the world," said Pakistan cricket's newest teenage sensation after raining on New Zealand's victory parade in the UAE.

"That is what I am striving to do. I want to be a good fielder, a good bowler and a good batsman and I proved to myself that I can do it [on Monday night]." Aamer's emergence this year has been a rare oasis of optimism for the troubled Pakistan side, and he was a smash hit with the Zayed Stadium crowd, whose chants of "Aamer, zindabad" reached a crescendo as victory seemed to be in sight. Despite the desperate situation he found himself in during the third Cool & Cool Cup match, a broad smile rarely left his face.

As Intikhab Alam, the Pakistani coach, translated for Aamer afterwards he had a look of paternalistic - perhaps even grandfatherly, given the age disparity - pride. It seemed like he was about to hand over a Werther's Original to celebrate the youngster's feats. "Adam Gilchrist is his hero, he wants to emulate him and one day I hope he will!" said Intikhab, the 67-year-old former leg-spinner. "We make sure the tail-enders get regular batting in the nets, and he has always been very keen and serious about his batting. That good work paid off against New Zealand."

His senior colleagues enjoyed the show. "He looked like a genuine batsman," said Umar Gul, his new-ball partner, who could never have predicted what was to follow when he was the ninth wicket to fall with the score on 101. Between Nos 10 and 11, Aamer and Saeed Ajmal, Pakistan put on 103, which was three runs behind the record for a 10th wicket in one-day internationals. Whatever Aamer achieves with the bat will be treated as a bonus by his team. It is with the ball that he has been earmarked for greatness. He and Gul are starting to forge an alliance which bears a passing resemblance to the great combination of Akram and Waqar Younis.

"At the moment I am happy that we are doing well as a team but we still have a long way to go to be like Wasim and Waqar," said Gul. "Hopefully as long as we keep playing together we can do even better. "Aamer has had very good reputation since playing Under 15 and Under 17 cricket, and did well for the Pakistan junior teams. "The best thing is he is learning very quickly. He listens to every-body, he is a nice guy and it is good to see he is doing so well at the moment."

It seems startling to think that a player who is still so young has been on the radar for years. More remarkable still is the fact he has had to recover from three stress fractures of his back already. Aamer certainly does not want for ambition, given his assertion that he wants to reach the very top as an all-rounder. And his ability to deliver on his intentions should not be doubted, according to the man who set him on the path to the top. "This kid, when he says he is going to do something, he delivers," said Mudassar Nazar, the former Pakistan captain, who first took Aamer to Pakistan's National Academy after spotting him at a regional coaching camp.

"Ever since coming into the Pakistan team he has been bowling a lot of overs - which shows how much faith the captain has in him already. "He will do, because he can bowl to a plan. [Sri Lanka's opening batsman Tillakeratne] Dilshan was doing wonderful things in the World Twenty20, but he went straight for the jugular and got him. "Every time he has played against Sanath Jaysuriya, he has got him out hooking. Sanath is a wonderful one-day player. As a young kid he grew up watching Sanath destroy attacks, but he was totally unfazed."

@Email:pradley@thenational.ae