Imran Nazir ended his international career as a played whose talent was somewhat unfulfilled at the highest level.
Once hoped to be Pakistan’s answer to Virender Sehwag, Nazir finished his Pakistan career with four hundreds in over 100 appearances after his Test debut as a 17-year-old against Sri Lanka in 1999. But while his international record underwhelms, his domestic T20 record was outstanding.
In the most recent episode of Wisden and CricViz‘s recent podcast series The Greatest T20, the panel debated over who the greatest T20 side of all are. Sialkot Stallions, a side that were emphatically dominant in the early years of T20 cricket in Pakistan, were mentioned in the discussion with Nazir pinpointed as one of the factors behind their sustained success.
Islamabad United strategy manager Hassan Cheema called Nazir “a domestic God” for his performances for Sialkot. Nazir’s career T20 strike-rate of 148.91 still ranks in the top 50 of all time, despite Nazir playing the majority of his T20 cricket in the format’s first decade. Both his strike-rate and average (27.93) are higher than Sehwag’s.
“The key batting reason behind their success was Imran Nazir,” said Cheema. “A lot of international observers, a lot of people who saw him in international cricket never saw the best of him. He never made the leap to a higher level but in the domestic game, especially in T20 cricket, he was, for the lack of a better word, a domestic God.
“He played pretty much all of his T20 cricket in the first decade of this century. The man had a better T20 average and better T20 strike-rate than pretty much any of his contemporaries. Better than Sehwag, better than Gilchrist. Even right now if you get an opener who averages say 27 or 28 at a strike-rate of 150, that’s considered elite. He was doing this back in the mid-2000s.
“I remember there was a tournament in 2008 or 2009 where Sialkot won the tournament unbeaten. Imran Nazir was the top run-scorer and he went at a strike-rate in excess of 200.
“The thing with him and Malik, the thing they really struggled with over their careers was lateral movement or extra pace. But when they played in Pakistan, the competition was a little diluted and it was one of the rare instances that Pakistan wasn’t produced fast bowlers. On the slower wickets in Pakistan, they could dominate as well as anyone.”