Before the start of the India-Afghanistan match on Wednesday, Wasim Akram offered a few pointers to Shapoor Zadran, a fellow member of the left-arm fast-bowling club.

Akram is known to help young pacers out — as he did with Varun Aaron later in the evening — but for Shapoor, who cultivated his craft by watching videos of Akram’s bowling, it was a defining moment.

The Afghanistan bowler had said recently it was his khwaahish (desire) to pick the Pakistan legend’s brains on fast bowling. “My favourite bowler is Shoaib Akhtar, but I follow Akram’s bowling. On the night before every match, I watch videos of his bowling.”

Akram’s influence is very evident; the way he runs in and his load-up are reminiscent of the great man. His pace-partner, Dawlat Zadran, is a big Waqar Younis fan, and has modelled his action on him.

Comparisons with the two Ws are inevitable but Shapoor enjoys this. “It’s nice to be compared with such greats.”

The long-haired bowler has also sought bowling tips from Zaheer Khan. “He said my height was my biggest strength and he advised me to make the most of it. Zaheer also taught me how to bring the ball back into the right hander.”

Having interacted with other Indian cricketers as well, Shapoor’s personal favourite is M.S. Dhoni.

Like most of his teammates, Shapooor spent his childhood as a refugee in Peshawar. “I developed a liking for the game in 2000. By 2002, I began playing with the hard ball.”

His enthusiasm for the game wasn’t initially shared by his family. “They would ask me to study and take up a job. They didn’t like the game at all. But in 2007, cricket took proper shape in Afghanistan.

“Now, they follow every single game that we play. When we won against Bangladesh, they were pleasantly shocked,” said Shapoor, his large frame reverberating with a booming laugh.

He said the growing media-attention was something he got used to when Afghanistan played in the World T20 in 2010. “There were many journalists and I was scared. I wondered if I could even bowl at all. But soon the pressure was gone.”

On the personal front, Shapoor was thrilled by how his four-year-old son, Mohammad, recognised him on TV. “When I took the first wicket in the Bangladesh match, he immediately started dancing and clapping.”

Shapoor is no stranger to dancing himself going by his teammates’ accounts. “I do enjoy the atthan [Afghanistan’s traditional dance],” he said.

As Afghanistan continues to make a strong impression in the cricketing landscape, Shapoor hoped to give something back to his nation. “When I retire, I want to become the bowling coach of Afghanistan and help youngsters.”

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