BELGIUM-BORN hot-shot Antum Naqvi, who is setting the stage alight in Zimbabwean domestic cricket, has revealed he is “ready right now” to represent the African country if he is called up to the team.
The 24-year-old batsman – who was born in Brussels and raised in Australia – has been making batting look easy in the short period of time he has played in Zimbabwe, scoring three centuries for Kwekwe-based Midwest Rhinos in just five first-class matches last season.
After recently returning to Zimbabwe for the new 2023-04 term, right-hander Naqvi has already smashed the same number of hundreds in List ‘A’ matches, prompting a legion of Zimbabwean cricket fans to call for his inclusion in the Chevrons side.
“Definitely I like coming to Zimbabwe, the people and the hospitality, the nature, it’s just so calming to be in Zimbabwe,” Naqvi told renowned cricket broadcaster Dean du Plessis on his PodCast show, Dean at Stumps.
“It’s not like in these Western countries, the big cities, bustling lifestyles. When you come back to Harare it’s very calm and, you know, the atmosphere is definitely relaxed. So yes, I would definitely like to keep coming back and definitely if the opportunity arises for anything in Zimbabwe cricket, I would grab it with two hands…I’m very committed and ready right now.”
There was talk this week that Zimbabwean cricket authorities have started putting plans in motion to apply for Naqvi’s naturalisation in order to make him eligible for national team selection.
Naqvi is not quite certain if this will materialise, but he is holding his breath for the outcome.
“Personally I haven’t looked into it, I’m not too sure what the process is,” he said. “I’m just trying to crunch my ones and see where it ends at the end of the season.”
Antum and his younger brother Awad, who turns out for Matabeleland Tuskers, are being partly supported financially in their cricket progress in Zimbabwe by their Belgian-born father Zubair Naqvi. In his young days, Zubair played local cricket in the Netherlands and regularly travels to Zimbabwe these days from Australia as a consultant for the Bulawayo team Tuskers.
His oldest son Antum first came to Zimbabwe last season after he was urged on to do so by former Zimbabwe international Solomon Mire, who has lived and played in Australia for a number of years now.
“There is this one season a few years ago when I was playing cricket up in the north of Australia, in a city called Darwin,” said Naqvi.
“At that time Solomon Mire was living with me. In that very season I scored back-to-back hundreds, and then I scored another hundred. But I wasn’t getting the opportunity so Solomon Mire said ‘hey, look, why don’t you try Zimbabwe? They are looking for players, so go there’. And this is how I ended up at the Rhinos. He (Mire) did help me develop my white-ball game, especially the T20 version. We did do a lot of work together when he was staying over and everything just worked on from there.”
Naqvi has been effective in Zimbabwe in both the four-day as well as the shorter versions of the game, but told Du Plessis that he was a bigger fan of the limited-over forms.
“To be honest, personally, I love my white-balls cricket,” he remarked. “But I’ve started enjoying the longer cricket also after these first-class games. I’ve found a way to stay at the crease, and just crunch ones, you know, work hard. So now I’m just confused which one I like more (…chuckles).”
Naqvi, who said he finds Zimbabwe’s wickets to be more spin-friendly, in January became the 24th player in history to score back-to-back centuries in the first two games of his first-class career.
With the Logan Cup up next in Zimbabwe, Naqvi – who is also an off-spin bowler – is eager to make greater impact for Rhinos in only his second season of first-class cricket.
“It’s a great personal achievement (two consecutive tons), I just want to keep scoring hundreds,” he said.
“I don’t want to stop. People relax after some games and will be like ‘oh, I’ve done this so I can take it easy, go on the back-foot a bit’. I just want to keep going, don’t stop, and create more records.”
Naqvi is not only about cricket talents, he is also a trained commercial pilot. But while being up in the skies gives him a thrill, for now he is also thoroughly enjoying being on land, piling on the runs at the crease.
“I’ve got my commercial licence now, so there is nothing more left after that,” commented Naqvi. “So now I’ve just put flying on hold for whenever I’ve got time. I’ve always wanted to be a pilot growing up. I love planes, I love travelling. It has always been my dream to be a pilot. But now cricket is in the way, and I’ve put all that aside and now just focusing on the cricket.”
An elegant and laid-back batsman who stays in and builds solid innings, Naqvi attributes his mental strength to his off-field easy-going lifestyle.
“A good day of rest for me, personally, is not just staying at home the whole day,” Naqvi said.
“On Friday we played a game against Eagles (in Kwekwe) and on the Saturday I decided with my father and Ben Curran that ‘let’s go to Antelope Park (near Gweru)’. So we spent the whole day there up with the animals, elephants, rhinos…we were patting rhinos’ horns on their heads, which was an incredible experience we had. We had lunch at a nice restaurant. That’s the type of off days I like to have because its calming, its away from cricket, you know, you are enjoying yourself.
“I’m more of a relaxed person. I don’t like to take any stress. I believe as soon as you start taking stress, you fake your cricket ability and get emotional. So I’ve come to the conclusion that when you relax, your body stays relaxed and your hands come nicely. Everything just flows through. Whatever the result, you have to enjoy cricket. If you’re not enjoying, then there’s no point.”-STAFF WRITER