By Leigha Vegh
All it took was a match between two international cricket teams at a stadium in Lahore, Pakistan to spark 12-year-old Nauman Zafar to become a cricket player.
“I saw people cheering for the Pakistan team, I saw the enthusiasm, that was something different…that day I told my dad, ‘I want to play cricket’,” the Humber Business Management student, 21, said.
After graduating high school, he made his college team at Forman Christian College at the age of 15.
In Lahore, high school ends at Grade 10, and college consists of Grade 11 and 12.
During this first year playing at Forman, Zafar was not part of the first 11 on the squad. He was a mostly a benchwarmer. Unsettled but determined, he used a break in the season to get better.
He still remembers practicing for hours on end during the break.
“I used to bowl for like three to four hours in a day”, he said.
His hard work didn’t go unnoticed.
“The next year, my coaches saw the difference in me and I was the main bowler for my college team,” Zafar said. He added that Forman College’s team was well-recognized.
Subsequently, Zafar was attracted by the international reputation of Humber’s Business program, as well as its recreational cricket team.
“I knew Humber has a really good cricket team and the coach is also a national player for Canada,” he said.
Zafar is talking about Srimantha Wijeveranthe, who is acclaimed in the cricket community as both a member of the Canadian National team and captain of the Canadian High Performance team.
Zafar had a premonition that he was going to make the Canadian College Cricket All Star team because he practiced fervently and went to many tryouts.
“I knew I was going to make it because I was working hard,” Zafar said.
The fast bowler was nonetheless ecstatic when he found out that he had made the team.
“I’m playing the top players in America. I’m really excited to rub my shoulders with them”, he said.
His coach for the Canadian College Cricket team, Derek Perara feels the same way, seeing how Zafar takes instruction with a positive attitude.
“He makes coaching quite easy because he’s a dedicated player [and] he knows the processes that go into getting better,” Perara said.
Zafar came “highly recommended” from the Canadian high performance camp, according to Hassan Mirza, president of Canadian College Cricket.
“He’s a very good, fast, bowler who has a very bright future,” he said.
Mirza explained that the mission of CCC is to regain awareness of what was Canada’s first national sport, as named by the first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald.
The reason cricket is rising in North America is because it is a popular sport among the majority of diverse immigrant groups, Mirza said.
“Some schools have already realized the value it can add to their brand…in terms of recruiting students locally and internationally,” he said.
Zafar hopes to make Canada’s national cricket team one day, but for that he has to be one of the top three fast bowlers nationally.
“There’s a lot of competition in Canada. You have to be a top performer to be on the National Team of Canada, and that is my goal.”
Canadian College Cricket will face American College Cricket in a series of matches between starting today in Houston, Texas at the Moosa Cricket Stadium.