Pakistan have produced a number of gifted fast bowlers through their cricket history. Now, a talent hunt conducted by the Pakistan Super League team Lahore Qalandars may have unearthed someone truly unique: Yasir Jan, a 21-year-old quick who can bowl with both arms, and generate serious pace with either.
According to Aaqib Javed, the former Pakistan fast bowler who is now Qalandars' head of cricket operations, the ambidextrous Yasir can clock "around 145kmph with his right arm and not less than 135kmph with his left arm".
Qalandars have signed up Yasir on a 10-year developmental contract.
Yasir hails from Charsadda, a town situated 29km from Peshawar. He moved to Islamabad at the age of 12, where he has been working with his brothers at the family's vegetable shop. Cricket had been a "part-time passion" until he took a break from his work earlier this month to attend the talent hunt in Rawalpindi. The event has journeyed throughout Punjab, starting in Bahawalpur and ending in Lahore, taking 22 days to cover all the major cities.
He didn't take long to catch Aaqib's eye.
"He was bowling with his right arm, but then he came to me and told me, 'I can bowl with left arm too,' which caught my attention," Aaqib said at a press conference at the Lahore Press Club, where he introduced Yasir. "It was a surprise for me, because I have never seen anyone doing that. I have seen cricketers throwing with both arms, and even saw a bowler bowling spin with both arms, but this is someone extraordinary."
This isn't the first time Aaqib has discovered an unusual fast-bowling talent. In 2008, it was he who unearthed Mohammad Irfan, the 7'1" left-arm quick who was working at a plastic pipe factory at the time, earning around Pakistani Rs 8,000 (US $76 approx) a month while playing club cricket in the town of Gaggu Mandi in eastern Pakistan. Two years later, Irfan made his debut for Pakistan.
Aaqib said Yasir was "raw" at present, and that it would take him another year or so to become ready to play competitive cricket.
"Fast bowling is almost unnatural because you roll your arms and produce speed with an extreme level of muscle coordination," Aaqib said. "So him bowling with his weak arm with the same intensity and speed was something that is unique; I don't think anyone else in the world I know has done this.
Like we had found Mohammad Irfan some time ago, now we have found a bigger talent with such an amazing ability.
"We just wanted to encourage this talent and develop him, and get him ready for top-level cricket. I have signed a 10-year contract with him as a part of his grooming and taking care of all finances by Lahore Qalandars, so that he doesn't have to worry about his future. I hope he works hard and keeps his focus, and we will be able to give a future star to Pakistan in coming years."
Yasir is confident about his future, and is happy to have found a platform. He has not played any competitive cricket so far. "It's a great moment for me that I got such a platform," he said at a conference, before signing his contract. "I have been running a vegetable shop and playing cricket in my spare time. I thank Aaqib bhai
for his support, and I promise that I will remain focused and work very hard to make everyone proud. Playing for Pakistan is a dream for every kid playing cricket and I also want to see myself at the top in coming years."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson
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