The player-cum-mentor of J&K spotted Samad at the Science College ground in Jammu during a camp organised for the state Ranji Trophy team.
“What caught my eye was his ability to bat on the up and also along the ground on a dry surface, where senior batsmen were struggling. The ball was keeping low, but here I saw a rookie batting without any trouble,” Pathan told TOI.
“I immediately checked his scores in the junior circuit. I was very impressed. I wanted to test him in the shorter format of game. So, during Syed Mushtaq Ali 2018-19 season, he debuted against Nagaland and smacked an unbeaten 76 of 51 balls, helping us win the match comfortably,” said Pathan, who has organised various tournaments across the valley in a bid to unearth talent.
From an anonymous cricketer content to keeping his spot in the state U-19 side to breaking into an Indian Premier League (IPL) team, the 18-year-old has been on a roller-coaster ride in the past 10 months. He made his debut in T20, List-A and Ranji Trophy within a year. He was bought by Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL auction, becoming the fourth cricketer from J&K to get an cash-rich T20 league contract after Parvez Rasool, Manzoor Dar and Rasikh Salam.
“There is no doubt he is a work in progress but a couple of things make him an exciting prospect. First, he can bat anywhere and can hit sixes at will. He is a good wrist spinner too. He has got a sharp googly and bowls very accurately for a part-timer,” said Pathan, who believes Samad will get more than a handful games for the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
In the ongoing Ranji season, Samad has scored 242 runs in five innings, including a hundred and two fifties. He scored his maiden first-class century during their Ranji Trophy against Assam. He scored an unbeaten 103 off just 72 balls, studded with eight sixes and seven fours.
“I owe everything to Irfan sir. Unka J&K cricket se judna sone pe suhaga jaisa ho gaya (Irfan Pathan joining Jammu and Kashmir has been the icing on the cake). I don’t think I could have made it this far. He has helped me a lot and has backed me from the word go,” said Samad. “But I have to work harder now, as my journey has just begun,” he added.
Samad’s father Mohamad Farooq vividly remembers when his son started to play gully cricket.
“We used to live in Ustad Mohalla in Jammu. He started playing cricket with his elder brother (Taiyyab Farooq). Then they moved to a nearby park and now he is representing Jammu and Kashmir. Hopefully, one day, he will play for the country,” said Farooq, who is a physical education (PE) master by profession