"From my childhood, I used to dream of bowling like Shoaib Akhtar, fast and furious. For that, I used to bowl a lot in the nets and worked really hard," said Usman Shinwari. © Getty Images

“From my childhood, I used to dream of bowling like Shoaib Akhtar, fast and furious. For that, I used to bowl a lot in the nets and worked really hard,” said Usman Shinwari. © Getty Images

Like many other Pakistani fast bowlers, Usman Shinwari’s rise has been dramatic. Spotted from the hilly terrains of Pakistan’s north-west, his left-arm pace bowling impressed the Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited officials enough for them to pick him for domestic matches in 2012.

In his first major tournament, Shinwari broke the back of a formidable Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited outfit, taking 5 for 9 in the final of the National Twenty20 tournament at the the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Two of his 3.1 overs were maidens, and he dismissed Taufeeq Umar, Mohammad Rizwan, Ali Waqas, Misbah-ul-Haq (second-ball duck) and Samiullah Khan to help ZTBL win the crown.

So impressed were Misbah and the selectors with his swing and skid that they picked Shinwari for the Twenty20 International series against Sri Lanka. The SOS came so unexpectedly quickly that Shinwari had to abandon his marriage reception and dash off to the UAE. But he couldn’t find his feet at the international level, failing to get a wicket in the two matches.

His career went into limbo when he was diagnosed with a stress fracture of the back, which has often forced fast bowlers to quit the game. But using great determination and some luck as his allies, Shinwari overcame the career-threatening injury, probably the first indication that he was destined for greater things.

“It was a difficult phase,” remembers Shinwari. “I didn’t get a single wicket in the two Twenty20 Internationals (against Sri Lanka) and then suffered a back problem. My parents and my family supported me and told me not to give up.”

Slowly and gradually, Shinwari staged a comeback. The selectors were happy with what they saw. In most of the training camps, Shinwari impressed not only with his bowling but also with his hard work and fitness. He often figured in various squads but his chances of breaking back into the playing XI were put on hold by some other talented bowlers. He featured in two T20Is against the World XI in Lahore last month, but got only one wicket.

Even so, Mickey Arthur, the head coach, the team management and the selectors were confident that Shinwari could be more than a handful on his day.

That day finally came on October 23, in Sharjah. Playing his second One-Day International, Shinwari got wickets the his 5th, 6th, 9th, 11th and 21st deliveries of a five-over spell. That was the third quickest five-for in all international matches. He broke the back of the Sri Lankan batting with 5 for 34, sending them crashing to 103 all out and helping set up Pakistan’s 5-0 whitewash.

“I always wanted to take wickets, break the back of my opponents,” asserts Shinwari. “From my childhood, I used to dream of bowling like Shoaib Akhtar, fast and furious. For that, I used to bowl a lot in the nets and worked really hard.”

It was his skid that undid all the Sri Lankan batsmen, who went on to the back foot and all failed miserably. Upul Tharanga and Sadeera Samarawickrama lost their middle and off stumps respectively, Dinesh Chandimal and Milinda Siriwardana were caught, and Niroshan Dickwella also paid the price for not committing to the front foot.

“This is my best bowling in all cricket,” Shinwari readily accepts. “I want to continue this wicket-taking routine and make a name like Shoaib.”

Azhar Mahmood, the Pakistan bowling coach, is all praise for Shinwari’s hunger. “I am impressed with his hunger for taking wickets. We are blessed to have such wicket-taking bowlers. That we have so many options in fast bowling is a good sign for us.”