Khalid Latif’s international career never took off. Despite his huge promise and talent, Khalid failed to turn his immense potential into performance, and last week’s five-year ban seems to have ended his cricketing journey.
Khalid’s ban was especially disgusting for former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif, who sacrificed his career in his fight against match fixing and similar ills.
“I am not sad for him but sad for Pakistan cricket,” said Rashid. “He isn’t the first one very close to me who fell into this mess. Back in 1990s, I lost very close relationships – friends like brothers and seniors like my real life elders – due to the same menace and it happened again in 2017.”
Khalid was blamed for orchestrating the deal between bookies and Sharjeel Khan, his fellow Twenty20 opener in the Pakistan team and at Islamabad United in the Pakistan Super League. The Pakistan Cricket Board’s anti-corruption unit claimed Khalid convinced Sharjeel to meet a man on the insistence of Nasir Jamshed, another former opener.
The deal was that Sharjeel will play two dot balls after the first over in the inaugural match of the PSL’s second edition, between Islamabad United and Peshawar Zalmi. The unit claimed it had prior information of the deal which was passed to them by the National Crime Agency of UK and the Anti-Corruption and Safety Unit of the International Cricket Council. They also claimed to have seized coloured bat-grips which were to be used as a hint of executing the deal as planned.
Rashid, who fought Khalid’s case over the years and backed his talent, praised him as a player.
“He was a good player, everyone knows how good (he was),” said Rashid. “I helped groom him like I helped other players. For some reason, I always got along well with juniors much more than the seniors or peers.”
Khalid was a star when it came to club cricket in Pakistan. He would hit the ball as high and as confidently as anyone in international cricket. He was the toast of club cricket in Karachi, especially in the limited-overs matches as he could lift any fast bowler and any tweaker at will. But come a crucial match, and he would fail to live up to his promise, and that remained the bane of his regression.
Khalid came to limelight at an early age. He had barely celebrated his 15th birthday when he made his first-class debut in the 2000-01 season. The authority with which he used to bat caught everyone’s eyes in the first couple of years. Soon, Khalid was appointed captain of Pakistan Under-19 team and he duly responded with 291 runs in eight innings, comprising of three half-centuries. This was in the same tournament where the likes of Suresh Raina, Shikhar Dhawan, Ambati Rayudu and Alastair Cook made their marks.
Khalid’s international debut was not inspiring. Playing against Zimbabwe, he managed just 19 but was given another chance in UAE where a laborious 64 off 112 balls helped Pakistan build up a good total. However, his slow batting irked the team management. He followed that up with a 45 against the same opposition before two more unimpressive outings ended his ODI ambitions.
He suffered the same fate in the shortest version of the game where his highest in eight matches was a mere 13, and it seemed he would never be able to wear the Pakistan greens once again.
But the inaugural edition of the PSL brought Khalid into limelight once again. Although his 206 runs in nine games weren’t very impressive, the manner in which he played and a strike-rate of 119 convinced the selectors that he can be handy in the shortest format. Khalid responded well by smashing 46 against New Zealand in the 2016 World Twenty20 and followed that up with a whirlwind 59 not out against a formidable England.
His ruthless and fearless combination with Sharjeel could have been an ideal association for Pakistan. Instead, he not only fell in the pit, but also took along his partner, ending a career which could never take off.