Pakistan’s ‘Harry Potter’ casts a spell over England
When Abrar Ahmed took five wickets with his beguiling spin in a club match in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi, the then-15-year-old demanded his friends start calling him “superstar”.
Nine years later, he has lived up to that self-billing, taking an impressive 7-114 on his Test debut as Pakistan dismissed England for 281 in their first innings in Multan on Friday.
Now nicknamed “Harry Potter” by friends because he wears glasses similar to those of the fictional boy wizard, Ahmed produced magic of his own on a turning pitch.
Brought on to bowl the ninth over of the match, Ahmed snagged his first Test wicket with just his fifth ball, bamboozling Zak Crawley (19) to give Pakistan a breakthrough.
“His passion for the game, the hard work he puts into bowling, and the thirst for taking wickets… it was just a matter of time before he made his mark at the international level,” his brother Amjad told AFP by phone from Karachi.
Ahmed came into the spotlight in the 2019-20 domestic season, grabbing 57 wickets in the Grade-II tournament, including eight five-wicket hauls.
He earned his international call-up this year with 43 wickets in Pakistan’s premier first class tournament.
– Spinners’ track –
Ahmed followed his first wicket on Friday with the dismissals of Ben Duckett and Joe Root – much to the delight of skipper Babar Azam who had wanted a spinners’ track after losing the first Test on a lifeless pitch in Rawalpindi.
He then lured Ollie Pope and Harry Brook into following his looping deliveries for a five-wicket haul, becoming only the second debutant in history to do it before lunch on the opening day of a Test.
“I can’t describe my feelings in words,” he said at the end of the day.
“People do call me Harry Potter, but I am not a magician. I have done what is my job, and that is taking wickets.”
Ahmed became the 13th Pakistan bowler to grab five or more wickets on debut.
He is the youngest of five brothers and three sisters, and comes from humble beginnings.
His father, a small-time transport operator in Karachi, wanted him to study religion, but Ahmed would escape to play tape-ball cricket in the neighbourhood.
There he was spotted by Masroor Ahmed, a successful coach with an eye for young talent, who took him under his wing.
“To make his father happy, he learned the Koran by heart, but also convinced him that he has a future in cricket,” Masroor said.