When I finished my GCSE exams, way back in 1996, I had a fantastic Summer: the sun shone, I was carefree while awaiting my results in August and I filled the long days either practicing in the nets with my friends, or playing matches at the weekend for my club.
Hamidullah Qadri is no different, but while I spent my days playing for a small village in the Peak District, Qadri has been netting with, and last week making his debut for, Derbyshire Cricket Club.
It’s no mean feat at the age of 16. When you consider on debut he returned match figures of 6 for 76 – five of those wickets coming in the second innings, as he spun Derbyshire to their first championship victory in over two years – you realise what an exciting talent this young man is.
It is only when you learn Hamidullah Qadri’s full story, however, that you truly appreciate what an exceptional human being he is.
Following Qadri’s impressive debut it was no surprise that he was named in the squad to face Durham at Chesterfield today.
As I spoke to this young man, born in Kandahar, Afghanistan in the year 2000, it became obvious why Director of Cricket Kim Barnett was confident enough to make him the first player born this century to play first class cricket, and also the youngest ever to do so for Derbyshire.
Having seen Qadri bowl in the nets, whilst Derbyshire Second XI played the Unicorns at the start of the season, I asked him about his rise through the ranks.
“I’ve been playing with the juniors over the last 4 or 5 years,” he told me, “and was fortunate to have a scholarship with the academy last year. I got to work with great coaching staff, Mal Loye and Steve Stubbings.
“They helped me out with my game, which made me able to play a few games for the second eleven and I performed quite well and then I was called up to the first eleven for the game against Glamorgan.”
This might sound quite matter of fact from such a young man, but it was clear that nothing phases him.
I remember making my debut for my club. I was nervous appearing in a friendly as a junior, and remember bowling a wide to lose us the game. Qadri, though, on finding out he was making his debut at a test match ground for Derbyshire First team said: “I felt normal, to be honest.
“I felt a bit excited. I wouldn’t say I was nervous, just maybe a little excited.”
Again, to take this in his stride where most of us would have been a nervous wreck is testament to the make up of this talented individual.
It came as no surprise, then, that the step up from second eleven cricket to First Class Cricket wasn’t daunting either. Although he did admit the standard was the tough, it was clear he wasn’t scared to move to the next level.
“Obviously First class is tougher than anything I’ve played in before, but I just backed my skills and then bowled according to the plans I was set by the captain, me and the senior guys.”
If only it were that simple, I wouldn’t have been playing on the village green. However, he made it look simple against Glamorgan and most importantly he looked like he enjoyed it, playing the game with a smile on his face. That came through, too, as he talked about school and cricket.
“I enjoy my studies, I enjoy going to school, I enjoy playing cricket,” he said, “The only thing that got me close to playing professional cricket is the enjoyment of the game.
“If I enjoy it, I work harder at my skills. I know my game: what I need to do is work on my weaknesses and that will help me get closer to my full potential.”
How refreshing to hear a played talk of his enjoyment of the game and how it has helped him.
If Qadri needed a role model at the club for enjoying the game, he has one making his debut for the club against Durham. Imran Tahir has arrived and Qadri is excited to be sharing a dressing room and pitch with the exuberant South African.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting him,” he said, “He’s world class. He’s the number one bowler in the world and I’m sure I can learn a lot from him.”
If Qadri can learn from him, as he credits previous overseas player Jeevan Mendis as helping him, then he will surely develop as a player and help him to achieve his goals, which in a true and unassuming manner he states as “Just to continue playing cricket, keep enjoying it, do well on the pitch, hopefully take some wickets and win some games for Derbyshire.”
Having seen him bowl and spoken to him, I am sure the record breaking Hamidullah Qadri has a big future in cricket. His calm and understated nature means nothing will faze him as he progresses in the game.
He believes in himself, but not to the point of arrogance, just to the point of knowing what he can do and knowing what he needs to do to improve. His Management, Captain and fellow players clearly trust and believe in him, and with his infectious enjoyment of the game shining through the fans will also love him.
I hope he keeps that enjoyment and doesn’t let it fade, as he embarks on what should be an impressive and fruitful career.