Abu Dhabi, March 11: Hashmatullah Shahidi was aged 9 when he started taking cricket seriously and his father took him to a club in Kabul.
At the age of 24, he played in a World Cup for Afghanistan and on Thursday, 26-year-old Shahidi became the first from his country to score a double century in Test cricket, against Zimbabwe here.
Shahidi led a dominant Afghanistan on Thursday to a mammoth total of 545/4, with his captain Asghar Afghan waiting until the left-hander reached 200, to declare. Reach he did, and he walked back to a standing ovation from his teammates and opponents with 200 runs to his name off 443 deliveries. He spent 590 minutes at the crease, hitting 21 fours and one six.
Shahidi had said in a video interview for the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Facebook page that his mother is watching his innings all the time while his father’s support is what got him started in the sport.
“I was 9 years old when I started watching cricket and since then I have been playing. I started playing at home with my brothers. My father was always supportive, he told me if you are good I will take you to a cricket academy. Then, I started playing in an academy in Kabul,” Shahidi, who hails from the western province of Logar in Afghanistan, says in the video.
“Soon I played U-15 level cricket and then played for Afghanistan in the 2010 U-19 World Cup. I joined the national team in 2013,” said Shahidi.
Shahidi idolises batting great Kumar Sangakkara, who was the first Sri Lankan to score more than 12,000 runs in Test cricket, and likes taking innings as deep as possible, testified by his gritty knock during the second Test.
“I liked watching Sangakkara play. I always watched him and never missed his games, he was my role model. We always struggle in ODIs to play the full 50 overs so I try to stay there till the last overs,” said Shahidi.
“I want to score 100s and want to achieve a lot of things for my country. I want to be in the list of top players,” he said.
He says that the knowledge that his mother is watching is what motivates him to pick himself up whenever he gets hit on the field, as he was off England fast bowler Chris Woakes during their match in the 2019 World Cup. Afghanistan, chasing an improbable target of 398, lost the game by 150 runs but Shahidi batted as deep as possible and was his team’s highest scorer with 76 runs.
“My mother is watching all the time. When I got hit and fell down (against Chris Woakes in the World Cup match against England), I was only thinking about my mother. I said to myself just get up, what will she think. My helmet was broken but I thought that I don’t want to hurt her and so just get up and play,” said Shahidi.
During the ongoing second Test, Shahidi didn’t have too many short ball missiles to deal with as he and Afghan, and later Nasir Jamil who himself scored an unbeaten 55, ran the Zimbabwe bowlers ragged.