'I Wanted to Play Tests for India…': Domestic Giant Faiz Fazal Looks Back at Journey of Over Two Decades
'I Wanted to Play Tests for India…': Domestic Giant Faiz Fazal Looks Back at Journey of Over Two Decades
Faiz Fazal played an ODI for India back in 2016 but the left-hander, who scored bucket loads of runs for Vidarbha in First Class circuit, wasn’t able to fulfil his Test dream.

When Faiz Fazal announced his decision to retire, it was well and truly the end of an era. 9184 runs in 138 FC games, 3641 runs in 113 List A matches and 1273 runs in 66 T20s made him the backbone of Vidarbha for years in the domestic circuit and he also led the side to five titles. The 38-year-old made his ODI debut, his only appearance for the national side, under MS Dhoni in the 2016 fixture at Harare and underwent the domestic grind for over two decades.

His side is gearing up for the semi-final clash vs Madhya Pradesh at home but the thought of returning to the field for one last dance hasn’t crossed his mind even once. The left-hander’s last outing for the state was in Nagpur vs Haryana last month. In an exclusive chat with CricketNext, Fazal talked about his journey, India debut, playing under Dhoni and lessons from veteran coach Chandrakant Pandit.


What are your retirement plans?

I still play in the Northern Ireland in the Premier League in the UK. So, I will go and play that in April. Now I’m open for all these major leagues also. By god’s grace as I have played for the country, I will be eligible for all the major leagues. Let’s see how it goes.

I just want to give it back to the sport as the sport has given me a lot. Definitely, I will give it back (to the sport) in whatever the capacity I can. I have always been a very good student of the sport. I was always open to learning. So, I think all of that knowledge that I have, I should share it and contribute to the sport again. That’s my aim.

You made your India debut under MS Dhoni. Tell us about that moment when you got the India cap.

I was 31-year-old, working very hard in First class cricket to make my debut. Every individual dreams of playing for India. Similarly, it was with me. It was an ultimate dream that I should represent my country. And by god’s grace, after so many years of hard work, I got the cap.

It’s not just been me who has put in the hard work. My parents, my coaches, everyone has supported me a lot and it’s because of them that I was able to play for the country.

Actually feeling to describe hi nahi kar sakta hu. I was very emotional and teary-eyed when I got the cap. The cherry on the cake was that I got the cap from MS Dhoni. Moreover, we won that match and I struck an unbeaten 55. I was happy that I made some contribution for the team. I think everything is written in your destiny. In a population of 1.5 billion people, if you get a chance to represent the country, that’s just amazing. I’m really fortunate and blessed.

How was it sharing the dressing room with MSD?

MS Dhoni is so humble, down to earth and he doesn’t make you feel that he is MS DHONI. I will share an experience with you. We were returning from Harare and sitting in the lounge. MS came in and all of us offered him our seat. He just said “nahi nahi tum log betho” and he sat on the floor. He is a legend and he makes you very comfortable.

You batted with KL Rahul on your debut. Tell us about that partnership that you two stitched.

KL Rahul is a very good partner to bat with. We were very chilled at that point of time. We were playing our strokes and thankfully we took the team over the line by 10 wickets.

Are you disappointed that you played just one game for India?

When we won the game, I got a lot of appreciation from all around. Also, I was the only player in that team who didn’t have an IPL contract then. Still I got the chance to play white-ball.

But yes as a professional you feel bad and disappointed. I wanted to play Test format for India. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the Test side. The competition is really, very strong in India. There’s no jealousy or grudges but ofcourse, as a professional, it’s disappointing.

The other part to this is that competition should be there.

You have five titles to your name as the skipper in domestic cricket. Does captaincy come to you naturally?

I was fortunate that I got the captaincy duties at a very young age. I just feel the leadership qualities are really in born and you can’t really teach them. Yes, you can polish that quality.

As I said I have been a very good learner of the game and I have played under phenomenal captains. We had Shane Warne in Rajasthan Royals. He was a brilliant skipper. I think Australia says we missed the best captain. Apart from him, MS was also there.

I just feel every captain under whom I have played under had some or the other quality that I picked. I wasn’t a perfect captain but I always tried to implement the things that I have learnt.

Chandrakant Pandit played a very crucial role in Vidarbha’s successful run. Talk to us about your time with him.

I owe him a lot. I spent a lot of time with him and learnt a lot under him. He is very ruthless when it comes to preparations. He has a simple logic. We need to be prepared for every situation. So that helped everyone to come out of the comfort zone and do something extra.

I am also the same. Right from the very beginning, I have been of the idea that the preparations should be very good because that makes you feel very confident.

Vo hamesh mujhko bolte the ki main agar tiger hun to tu mera cub hai.’

How did you keep yourself motivated despite not getting India call-up again?

No doubt, I used to get disappointed. It’s not that I don’t sulk. I sulk a lot (laughs). But when you perform, you expect but I always say one thing that expectations bring disappointments. So, ultimately I believe in that and you keep working hard. The biggest motivation for me was the game itself. It has always been the game itself. Mujhe cricket khelne mein bohot maza ata hai. Simple!

You got to play IPL in 2010 but only ended up playing 12 matches. What do you think went wrong?

I played 10-11 matches first up and then didn’t get any game in the next one. There were IPL awards in that year. So, I was in the nominations for the best debutant. I guess there’s this trend of having players who bring in impact. I was probably lacking that impact. Ofcourse, I was lacking something. That’s why I wasn’t picked.

You missed playing the 2004 U19 World Cup due to injury. Do you regret that?

I believe in one thing and that is ‘Ek darwaza band hota hai to 10 darwaze khulte hain’. What if I wouldn’t have been able to perform. I was disappointed but I wasn’t discouraged.

How important it is to play Ranji Trophy or red-ball cricket to enhance the skillset?

The charm that Ranji Trophy, red-ball cricket, Test cricket has that’s just different and amazing. Nothing can be compared.

I’m still so emotional that I will miss playing red-ball cricket. The kind of pressure an opening batsman has while facing a new ball is just different. I would really wish and pray that the youngsters give importance to FC cricket.

BCCI is likely to make a minimum number of Ranji Trophy games mandatory for players to be eligible to participate in the IPL. How do you see this move?

That’s such a healthy thing for Indian cricket. The players who are a part of IPL are really very good. If these players play domestic cricket, it would help Indian cricket. I think this decision by BCCI is very good.

You also played for Railways for some time. Any specific reasons that you made a shift in the bases?

I played for Railways for three years (2010, 2011 & 2012). Railways during that period used to play in the Elite Group while Vidarbha was in Plate Group. I used to score runs for Vidarbha, get selected for Duleep Trophy but I used to get benched. Then Murali Kartik, Abhay Sharma, Sanjay Bangar suggested me to play for Railways. So I shifted the base. But then I came back to Vidarbha.

Lastly, did anyone suggest you to reconsider your decision of retiring?

A lot of people have said this in my family. I had kept it a secret and didn’t really talk about it. In fact, I told about my plans just before the match to Akshay Wakhare who is a very dear friend of mine. I never had any second thoughts about it. I just felt that this is the time and I shouldn’t stretch.

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