KARACHI: This year’s Pakistan Super League (PSL) has shone a light on a number of emerging young cricket stars — and at the top of the list is Peshawar Zalmi's Saim Ayub who became a social media sensation last week with an incredible 'no-look six' that many are calling “the real deal.”
Ayub’s blitzing 53 runs off 37 balls in a game against Multan Sultans last week involved three sixes, including what is called a no-look six that he hit with his head down and without even sneaking a peep at the trajectory of the ball as it came off his bat and flew over the boundary rope. The shot launched comparisons to legendary left-handed batsman, Saeed Anwar, due to their similar batting styles.
The no-look six refers to a shot that elite batsmen have aimed to hit in T20 cricket ever since Indian captain MS Dhoni pioneered the move against New Zealand in 2009. More and more batsmen, including from Pakistan, are trying these trick shots, especially in the shorter format of the game which encourages ingenuity and creativity, sometimes purely for entertainment value.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News on Tuesday, Ayub said he had worked hard to improve his batting in practice sessions and perfect the no-look six while working on his technique.
“It became a fantasy of mine [to hit a no-look six in a professional game],” he explained, smiling. “It feels good but I have to take it further Inshallah and improve it further.”
A native of Karachi, the 20-year-old made a name for himself in the National T20 Cup in which he represented Sindh and was the top scorer in the recently concluded 2022-23 season, also winning the player of the tournament award. Having represented Quetta Gladiators in PSL 2021, Ayub now plays for Peshawar Zalmi, currently placed third in the standings, with four points.
Ramiz Raja, former Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, noticed Ayub’s talents and said he could be one of the future openers for the Pakistan national team, a dream for the young player who is considered a T20 specialist but is striving to improve as a batsman and play in One Day Internationals and Test matches too.
“Everyone has a goal to play for Pakistan and I also have [that] goal to make my country proud,” said Ayub, who has played in under-16 and under-19 matches but not yet been selected for the senior side.
When asked what he thought of Pakistan's fiery pace battery, including Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah (all in opposing PSL teams), Ayub oozed the same confidence of his no-look six.
“There is nothing to be afraid of," he said. "So, I will enjoy it and I wish they [top bowlers] come in front of me.”
Was there a bowler in the PSL he found particularly difficult to play?
“It’s not about a difficult or easy [bowler]. It’s the situation that’s difficult and the situation that is easy. I enjoy playing cricket against every bowler in every match. I enjoy playing, basically.”
Ayub praised his coaches at the PIA cricket academy at the under-16 and under-19 stages, and also gave credit to Kamran Akmal, Zalmi’s pre-tournament batting consultant, for teaching different tactics to players to help them prepare for various stages of the game against both spinners and fast bowlers.
“I learned something from him every day, about approaching the game with the fielding restrictions, and how to face up to different bowlers,” Ayub said.
Ayub praised Peshawar Zalmi's dressing room environment, likening it to a family, with captain Babar Azam ensuring there was no negativity in the team. The batter said he was happy to learn from former captain and Pakistan head coach Inzamam-ul-Haq, as well as Babar, who also leads the Pakistan team in all formats.
“I never thought I would be sharing a dressing room with these legends but I am very lucky and I feel great.”
Ayub called the PSL the biggest stage for youngsters to showcase their talent to selectors of the national team.
“Domestic is also essential for showcasing talent but you amass the main fan following here," he said. "When you perform in the PSL, you get attention. The entire Pakistan watches you at that moment, the entire world watches you."
And though he's taking it one game at a time, Ayub aspires to wear Pakistan's green colors and make his country proud.
“Everyone's goal is to play for Pakistan,” he said, “and I also have the goal to play for Pakistan and make sure my country's name shines.”