PESHAWAR, 15 November: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has included 39-year-old Rifatullah Mohmand, hailing from Mohmand Agency, in the Twenty20 squad for the three-match series against England scheduled to begin on 26 November.
He will be the most aged player from Pakistan making international debut at the age of 39.
Rifatullah was picked in the national team after his brilliant performances for Peshawar Panthers in the recent National T-20 Championship where he scored 230 runs with the strike rate of 157. TNN correspondent has conducted detailed discussion with Rifatullah about his long journey in domestic cricket and his ultimate dreams and ambitions.
TNN: You have got a chance after playing domestic cricket for the last 20 years. Do you have any regrets about that?
Rifatullah: People often ask me this question, but I will say I am still proud of my achievements. Media had no access to every small and big city at the time when we started cricket due to which many players did not get attention. Now T-20 cricket is very popular in the media and good players immediately get attention. When I performed in the National T-20 Championship many people said this guy should be given chance on the national level. This was the reason I finally got attention of selectors.
TNN: T-20 cricket demands great fitness from players. Although you have proved your fitness in the PCB, but do you have any fitness concerns at the age of 39?
Rifatullah: I have proved my fitness with my consistent performances in our two consecutive title victories in the National T-20 Championship. It is true that maintaining fitness at the age of 39 is a great challenge, but I am doing well in this regard.
TNN: After not being considered for the national team, did you lose hope during the last 19 years?
Rifatullah: Our religion teaches us with great emphasis not to get disappointed at any time. Cricket is my bread and butter and I also used to play different league matches in England and Dubai. Cricket is the love of my life and I also fulfilled all my economic requirements from the game due to which I never got disappointed with it.
TNN: After securing place in the T-20 team do you see prospects for your selection in the ODI or Test team in the future?
Rifatullah: I have played lots of Test and one-day cricket during my 19-year long career at domestic circuit. Recently I have developed taste for T-20 cricket and I want to prove myself in the shortest format of the game on international level. The Test team are currently performing very well and hoping to get a place in the Test team in place of a well performing player will be unrealistic. Currently I am focussing on T-20 cricket.
TNN: You are almost 40 years old now. So what are your future plans?
Rifatullah: I have not set any long-term targets of making records because I know that there is not much cricket left in me. My short-term ambition is to perform well against England and earn a call for the T-20 World Cup. I want to win matches for Pakistan with my good performance.
TNN: If you did not get a chance against England or do not perform well then your debut series may prove your last series. How do you see it?
Rifatullah: I had very meagre chances of inclusion in the team but now I am part of the team against England and I am hopeful that I will also be part of the playing eleven. Even if I failed to perform well then at least I will have no regrets of not getting a chance. I am praying Almighty Allah to give me honour and courage to perform well against England and stay in the team.
TNN: What are your domestic engagements nowadays?
Rifatullah: I have played most of my domestic cricket from Peshawar and WAPDA teams. Currently, I am associated with WAPDA team. I have also played for Habib Bank and some other domestic teams. I have also represented Pakistan A team against India, Australia and New Zealand A teams. I scored 55 runs in a side match against England A when the team visited Pakistan. Our Peshawar Panthers team are winning the National T-20 Championship for the last two years which is a matter of pride for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
TNN: Besides cricket what are other areas on interest in your life?
Rifatullah: A cricketer has no personal life and he remains busy in travelling to different places for cricket matches. During the domestic season, I remain busy at home matches, after which I travel to England and Dubai for playing league matches. I could give little time to my three children.