Karachi: From throwing rocks down mountains and training by swimming across rivers and streams in Pakistan's troubled north-west, unheralded pace bowler Sohail Khan has come a long way.
Sohail Khan. Pic/AFP
The 30-year-old was a surprise inclusion in Pakistan's 15-man squad for the World Cup as he was not considered amongst the favourites until the morning of the announcement.
But former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif described Khan as "gate crashing" his way into contention after a string of impressive performances in domestic cricket. "He has gate-crashed into the World Cup squad," said Latif, credited for grooming the raw talent of Khan in his domestic team, Port Qasim.
"His recent performances forced the selectors to give him a chance and I am confident he will make his mark in the World Cup."
Khan took 64 wickets in Pakistan's domestic season last year and got 10 wickets in a one-day event — an impressive show which forced him into the World Cup squad at the expense of unfit Umar Gul. But it hasn't been an easy ride for the well-built Khan.
As a youngster, dreaming of making a name for himself, Khan used to throw stones down the hills in Malakand agency — the mountainous tribal area in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province — to build muscle to bowl fast.
Deprived of basic cricket facilities, Khan initially played with a tennis ball. "I grew up with a desire to make my name in cricket," Khan told AFP.
"We did not have any facility to play the game like a ground or a gym so someone told me that if I throw stones over a distance I could build my muscle to bowl fast."
Routine swims in the streams and rivers in the tribal area helped further build the body. A relative then told Khan to try his luck in Karachi, where he was spotted in a talent hunt programme before he landed in the safe hands of Latif, who honed the tribal talent in his academy.