Aamir Shahzad Aiming High With Move To Glenrothes
After a decade at Stenhousemuir one of Scotland’s top all rounders is heading east to join Glenrothes.
Photo: Poloc Cricket Club (Facebook)
It’s the time of year when Scotland’s cricketers emerge into the new season with a spring in their stride and ambitions of marching boldly towards the pursuit of titles and fresh challenges.
April might have been the cruellest month for T S Eliot, but not for those who relish the renewed opportunity to pick up a bat and ball and swarm to the nearest patch of green.
Aamir Shahzad knows all about it. Even at 30, this redoubtable character might be involved in his family’s thriving takeaway business in Alloa, but cricket is at the centre of all his thoughts just now.
In the last few days, it’s been confirmed the talented all-rounder has joined rising force, Glenrothes, after spending more than a decade at Stenhousemuir and, when I caught up with him, he sounded as excited as a child who hears the sound of something stirring on the roof on Christmas Eve.
Yet, given the circumstances, why shouldn’t Shahzad be enthusiastic? Life has been a struggle for his old club – who were relegated from the Western Premier League last year – and he is not the only cricket aficionado hoping the weather in 2017 is much kinder to Scotland’s white-flannel brigade than it was 12 months ago – even if there is a forecast for snow next week!
But Shahzad isn’t fazed by that, nor anything which has happened in the past. Instead, he is thrilled to be moving to Fife and joining forces with one of the country’s most progressive, inclusive organisations.
As he told me: “You can see the club is moving forward, both on and off the pitch, and there is a real buzz about what they are doing at the moment. I spoke to [their official] Eddie Gibbs and he is the sort of upbeat character whose positive approach rubs off on everybody else.
“The thing is I am really optimistic about this group of players. They have a terrific mix of youth and experience and, although I’m not going to take anything for granted, I think we can be a force this year.
“You look down the list of team members and there are Scotland and Scotland A and Under-19 performers, like Safyaan Sharif, Ben Wilkinson, Fred Culley, and myself, then you have talented individuals such as Vasu Reddy and Yasar Arfat who I know well from when we both played together at Stenhousemuir.
“Alright, we will have to produce the right results on the pitch and we have a tough start in the Eastern Premier League against [defending champions] Carlton, but it’s all about getting the team believing in themselves, pulling together, and performing without any fear.”
It’s a long time since the teenage Shahzad travelled from Pakistan with his family at the start of the millennium, and, in sporting terms, it seems an eternity since he was chosen for the Scotland Under-19 World Cup squad which participated at the global tournament in Sri Lanka in 2006. Indeed, although a few of that party – including Richie Berrington and Calum MacLeod – subsequently progressed to senior level and ODI prominence, it’s probably more striking how many others, including Moneeb Iqbal, Kasim Farid, Andrew Hislop, Tyler Buchan and Umair Mohammed, slipped out of the spotlight.
But, that might only be the perception of an outsider. Certainly, Shahzad has not ruled out returning to international contention and believes he possesses the skills to impress the selectors in the future if he lives up to the high standards which he constantly sets himself.
As he explained: “It was fantastic to be a part of that experience in 2006 and putting ourselves to the test against formidable teams such as India and Sri Lanka. Of course, it was a massive learning curve for us – and it was tough – but I have always thought you only get better by putting yourself into these situations where you are up against opponents ranked higher than you are.
“The fact is I would love to be involved in the Scottish set-up again and I definitely don’t feel I have missed my chance. There’s a lot of competition around at the moment, but I’ve been picked regularly for the Western Warriors and I’ve really enjoyed these matches against the best players from the East, West and North, so let’s see what happens.
Photo: Shahzad (bottom row, centre) was part of Stenhousemuir Championship winning side of 2015
“I know it is all about results and what you achieve in terms of scoring runs and taking wickets, but that is one of the main reasons I have moved to Glenrothes. I’ll not be turning my back on Stenhousemuir – I owe them an awful lot, because they gave me my chance in the first place.
“But I have to be turning out at Premier League level, week in, week out, and that is why I am thrilled about taking on the likes of Carlton, Grange, Arbroath and Aberdeenshire. I realise Glenrothes struggled a bit last year, but this is a new start, and we’re not thinking about being eighth or ninth. We’re thinking about being in the mix and fighting for honours, both in the league and the Scottish Cup and the Twenty20 matches.”
Shahzad is right to accentuate the positives. After all, Glenrothes have assembled an eclectic group of swashbuckling cricketers – and that is before there is any final verdict in the protracted Sreesanth saga: a murky story from which the Fifers are one of the few organisations to emerge with any credit!
And now, as he prepares to make his Glenrothes debut on Saturday in a friendly tussle with Strathmore, Shahzad admitted he feels energised by the prospect of embarking on the next chapter of his peripatetic life.
He said: “It’s a pretty simple sport. We realise what we have to do, and that is to play our hearts out and bring the same optimism which exists at the club to everything we do on the pitch. I seriously believe this is a very good squad and one which can challenge for trophies in the months ahead. If the teamwork is there, nothing can stop us.”
Aamir Shahzad works every hour at his disposal. He’s almost permanently active, six days a week, helping run a thriving takeaway firm (Four in One – Alloa). Ultimately, he doesn’t need to curry favour with anybody.
And he is accustomed to delivering the goods when it matters. This looks like another tasty deal for the bold men and women at Gilvenbank!