If Shahid Afridi became endearingly known as Boom Boom due to his aggression and Misbah Ul-Haq became infamously associated with Tuk Tuk in India, Fakhar Zaman can potentially be labelled as Zoom Zoom in the aftermath of his performance in Zimbabwe. To the observer’s eye, Fakhar Zaman’s batting seems unorthodox and full of shots that are composed of swatting and/or thwacking the ball across the boundary. Over the years the Pakistani fan has become used to seeing a semi-regular batting collapse and then an anchor role being initiated that would lead to a defensive approach to the game. With Zaman’s style of play, the Pakistani side has finally seen the establishment of a base and foundation that promotes the fostering of aggressive tactics.
Fakhar Zaman’s prolific performance on African soil has demonstrated that the left-handed batsman has the potential to solve Pakistan’s opening woes since the cricketing days of Saeed Anwar, at least from one end. Since post-2000, Pakistan has continuously been experimenting with its openers to establish consistency at the top of the batting order. The days of Pakistan opening consisting of Salman Butt, Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Imran Farhat, Kamran Akmal, Ahmed Shehzad, and Sharjeel Khan is now nothing but a part of the past. Some of these individuals should have never donned the Pakistan emblem as a select few became notoriously known for spot-fixing, bowling improperly, dropping catches, and being involved in taking substances to enhance performance. Fakhar Zaman, a navy man, brings a fresh face to Pakistan’s opening department. Perhaps the next item on Mickey Arthur’s agenda is to tweak and refine Pakistan’s opening through finding a sound and dependable partner who compliments Fakhar Zaman’s dynamic batting. Although Imam Ul Haq seems like a good option, one mustn’t overlook the experience of Azhar Ali and/or be promoting Babar Azam at the top of the order.
Zaman smashing 210* against Zimbabwe has launched the Pakistani opener into joining an elite 200-club alongside the likes of Martin Guptill of New Zealand, Chris Gayle of the West Indies, and India’s trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, and Rohit Sharma. He became the least capped player to produce a 200+ score, only taking 17 innings. The 210* knock contributed to Pakistan securing the world record for the highest opening partnership, a 304 run stand, in ODI history. Zaman surpassed Saeed Anwar’s famous knock of 194, which was hit against India in India (Chennai) during the Independence Cup in 1997. At the time, Anwar’s innings broke the world record for the highest-ever-individual score in ODI cricket. Although Anwar’s 194 cemented his legacy, only time will tell if Zaman utilises his double hundred as a platform to set himself up to become amongst Pakistan’s greatest openers. In 2010, ESPN Cricinfo declared that an all-time Pakistan XI would have an opening pair of both Saeed Anwar and Hanif Mohammad. The latter became famed for the longest ever-batting stint in Test Cricket. Although Fakhar Zaman is yet to be capped as a Test player, he has been a tremendous find for Pakistan Cricket. Perhaps the PCB should look to cultivate him as a Test Cricketer so that he can represent Pakistan across all formats.
Nevertheless, Fakhar Zaman has catalysed newfound energy in the post Misbah-Younis period of Pakistan Cricket. Since his international debut in early 2017, he single-handedly established the foundation for Pakistan winning their first ever Champions Trophy through his man of the match performance. The double hundred that he has hit against Zimbabwe has only pushed his case further for being a tremendous force to be reckoned with as the 2019 World Cup is right around the corner. His style of batting is quite ruthless to the eye, and it almost seems as though his line of attack stems from an inspiration that is derived from the Kamikaze style of Afridi’s batting meshed with Razzaq’s resolute stance. Zaman is currently ranked second on the ICC T20I Batting Rankings. Zaman is listed at the twenty-fourth position on the ICC ODI Batting Rankings. However, his form against Zimbabwe should catapult him in the latter classification. Zaman just became the fastest to 1000 runs (18 innings) in ODI cricket and surpassed Sir Vivan Richards (21 innings). No player in the history of ODI cricket has scored more in a five-match series. It is just a matter of time before the Champions Trophy Final’s Man of the Match, Fakhar Zaman, achieves the #1 rank by the ICC in both of the limited formats of the game.
The author is a postgrad at Oxford University where he studies Modern South Asia with an emphasis on politics and international relations.