He is just 20 years of age but built like an ox. On Saturday night, Afghanistan opener Hazratullah Zazai set Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Dehradun alight, raining 16 sixes in a record-breaking knock of 162 off just 62 balls.
Hitting sixes comes naturally to Zazai, who first grabbed headlines by smashing six sixes in an over in the Afghanistan Premier League last year en route to a 12-ball 50.
“My style of batting has always been aggressive. I always loved to hit sixes from my childhood. Now also, nothing gives me more pleasure than hitting sixes in matches. I am never satisfied with just one an over, sometimes I feel I can hit every ball for six,” Zazai told CricketNext from Dehradun on Monday.
In October last year, Zazai had hit those six sixes for Kabul Zwanan against Balkh Legends in front of one of idols — West Indies trailblazer Chris Gayle.
“My favourite players in world cricket are Chris Gayle and Hashim Amla. Gayle, of course, is such a powerful cricketer and hits the ball a long way. Amla has a unique technique and it’s so hard to dismiss him, that’s what I admire about him,” Zazai, who turned out for Dhaka Dynamites in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) before turning out for the series in Dehradun, said.
The one player from India that Zazai looks up to is former captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his ‘helicopter shot’.
“I haven’t had much interaction with players from Indian team but I am a fan of MS Dhoni and his helicopter shot. I tried to emulate the shot in tennis ball cricket and also in games whenever I get the chance,” Zazai, who averages 75.6 after six T20I games, said.
When it comes to big-hitting, Zazai doesn’t have to look too far for inspiration. Mohammed Shahzad, the short and stocky big-hitting opener follows a similar power-packed approach at the top of the order.
“In my own team, Mohammed Shahzad and other seniors like Mohammed Nabi and Rashid Khan have been a great help. We have a great team atmosphere and ever since I have broken into the side, the seniors have helped me out and made me feel comfortable,” the young opener said.
Asked what prompted him to take up cricket, Zazai said, “I started playing at a young age in Kabul but took up the sport seriously in 2010 when Afghanistan managed to qualify for the 2012 World T20, I have never looked back since then.”
Zazai was a little disappointed in missing out on a IPL-12 contract after the auction earlier this year after turning out for trials at Kings XI Punjab camp last year.
“It is a bit disappointing to miss out on IPL but I am still young and if I keep performing consistently and keep hitting those sixes, some team will definitely notice me,” the confident Zazai said.
Finally, on his preparation for the series of matches against Ireland, Zazai said, “Preparation for the series was very good, we had a camp in Bangalore before the series and then before that I played in BPL and scored some runs there. So I came into this series full of confidence. I’ll look to carry forward the same form into the ODI series as well.”