Back in August 2006, a 14-year old young Qatari came to Malaysia to play his first senior tournament. He was, by some distance, the youngest player in his team and was also the youngest player in the tournament. Yet he played the innings of the event during Qatar's quarter-final with UAE in the ACC Trophy.
Tamoor Sajjad's 53, against a formidable UAE attack, eclipsed the efforts of the Saudi batsmen twice his age and size who had earlier made runs against those bowlers at the group stage. Why? Because it's not just the number of runs you make but how and when you make them that matters. This was the knock-out stage and the UAE, defending champions, were focussed on victory.
Sajjad's 221 in the recent ACC U-15 Challenge against a hapless Brunei doesn't really bear comparison with that sublime 53 with its strokes on both sides of the wicket off front- and back-foot. On that August afternoon at the Royal Selangor Club Sajjad made batting look very easy.
It's not, of course. It never is. Particularly when you're up against the UAE's seasoned pacemen. But what Sajjad showed that day when he opened the batting was immense class. He played the bowling with power and finesse and superb technique. He made just 53 that day but it was the best 53 a 14-year old has ever made at ACC level. He truly is one to watch.
A polite young man, soft-spoken and measured in his answers, he yet glowers with intensity. He was interviewed in Chiang Mai in December 2006 where he was captaining Qatar in the ACC U-15 Challenge Cup.
How does it feel to be a national captain?
This is the first time I'm captaining the team and it has been an exciting experience. The team has lived up to my expectations in every aspect and I am very pleased. I always think I can do better but I just try staying out on the field as long as I can and making a significant difference to the total. Overall, it's been a good tournament.
After playing in the ACC Trophy, how does playing in the U-15 Challenge Cup compare?
I enjoy playing in the U-15 division as well. Here, I learn a lot about my own technique and style. Also I am luckier to get away with mistakes. In the senior side, the ball moves much quicker and there is no room for error. I take the age group level very seriously and it is here I learn a lot and play some of my best cricket. I've played at all age-group levels in ACC tournaments but I'm a little sad this will be my last U-15 tournament - I do very well at this level!
What kind of mentality do you put yourself into when coming into a game?
I like to set a target of 50 runs at first. And from there I just try adding onto the total. There's no specific total I have in mind, just one that is competitive enough for the opponents. And when I play I try not getting dismissed by loose deliveries.
Apparently your double-century is already being talked about by the other group's teams in Bangkok and you're on course to be top-scorer in this tournament - how important is that to you?
It is not exactly important but it's nice to know that I'm the only one here to score over 200 runs. I hope during the course of my career I'm able to put up more scores like this and maybe one day make history.
What gives you more satisfaction - personal success or team success?
I can't be a winner without the team doing well.
How does it feel to be playing on turf?
The team obviously needs the matches for practice and since there is no turf in Qatar, this was a huge plus for them. Back home, the ball always bounces up and most of the shots are played on the back foot therefore front foot strokes are generally quite weak. But this tournament has given the players a lot to work with and they have learnt to use various strokes in their game and I'm very happy with that. The bowlers too had taken a while to adjust to the pitch here and our first few games saw a lot of extras being given. But it's a learning curve for all of us and so as the tournament went on the bowlers adjusted their deliveries accordingly.
Apart from gaining valuable match practice, what do you feel the team will take back with them after this tournament?
The wealth of experience is enormous but we have also grown as a team. Before we came to Thailand most of us were strangers to one another and this tournament has helped bring everyone together and now we're like family. This, too, is important in building a team's confidence and trust enabling us to perform better.
(Qatar ultimately finished at the foot of the table in the ten-nation 2006 ACC U-15 Challenge, because of not having eleven residence-qualified players but on ability alone they would have been in with a winning chance)
What kind of room for improvement is there for all of you as a team?
There is always going to be a need for improvement in all areas but coming here has been the start we needed. If more games are organized for us to play and we practice regularly on turf, it will help vastly improve our game.
What are your cricketing ambitions?
I'd like to play at the highest level and show the world Qatar's potential as a cricketing country. I'd like to be thought of as a great player.
What do you do when you're not playing cricket?
I only play cricket.
Filed January 16 2007
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