Antum Naqvi: Cricket-playing pilot flying high for Zimbabwe

Commercial airline pilot Antum Naqvi has fast become the rising star of Zimbabwean cricket and has now set his sights on soaring to the national team.

Antum Naqvi playing for Mid West RhinosIMAGE SOURCE,ANTUM NAQVI

Antum Naqvi was born in Brussels and found his way to Zimbabwe via Australia

The 24-year-old hit the headlines after breaking domestic records with an unbeaten 300 in the Logan Cup for the Mid West Rhinos, external against the Matabeleland Tuskers last week.

Naqvi’s life has taken him across three continents following his birth in Brussels and a move, when he was four, to Australia where he was schooled and earnt his pilot’s license at Hartwig Flight School.

Yet he always held cricket as his first love and has put his aviation career on hold in order to achieve his sporting dreams.

“When I was growing up I loved planes, (the film) Top Gun and aeroplane shows and wanted to be a captain for one of the airlines on an Airbus A380,” he told BBC Sport Africa.

“After finishing school, I went to flying school and decided that I would have to handle my time perfectly if I wanted to execute my plans for both flying and cricket. It worked out perfectly.

“It took me about two and a half to three years to get my commercial airline license. I would fly in the mornings and do cricket training in the afternoons.

“Time management was probably the hardest bit for me. When I go back to Sydney, I try to fly as much as I can during my time off but I don’t get that much time to fly anymore.”

His decision to prioritise cricket seems to be paying off as, after only eight first-class games, Naqvi captains his side, has scored four centuries and averages 102.14 with the bat.

Early responsibility on field

Antum Naqvi playing for Mid West RhinosIMAGE SOURCE,ANTUM NAQVI

Naqvi hopes to follow the path trodden by Pakistan-born Sikandar Raza and play international cricket for Zimbabwe

Naqvi’s record-breaking innings helped the Mid West Rhinos earn an innings and 40-run victory over a Tuskers side skippered by Zimbabwean international stalwart Sean Williams.

By declaring when he was unbeaten on 300 and with his team on 538-3, Naqvi missed out on breaking the record score by any batter on Zimbabwean soil, which is Mark Richardson’s 306 for the New Zealanders against Zimbabwe A in 2000-01.

“It was one of those things that I did not even dream about. Words can’t describe it,” Navqi, who is of Indian and Pakistani descent, said.

“It was amazing at the end. We needed our first win because in our previous games, we played out a couple of draws (against Rocks and Eagles) due to some of the games being affected by rain.

“It would have been nice to have broken it (Richardson’s record). It’s another challenge for me now in the upcoming games to see if I can go further and break it.”

Naqvi’s knock was the first triple century in the Logan Cup, beating two milestones in the tournament. Cephas Zhuwao scored 265 during the 2017-18 season while Brian Davison hit 299 in 1974 – before the tournament held first-class status.

But the right-handed middle-order batter is so highly rated in his adopted nation that he was handed the captaincy of the Rhinos despite having only made his first-class debut when arriving in the country just over a year ago.

“It surprised me a bit when I was given the first-class captaincy. There were chats for me to be the T20 captain so I was aware that I was under consideration,” he said.

“It was a good surprise to be made the first-class captain. It was incredible to be given such responsibility.

“It showed that the franchise backed me and wanted to develop me into a more mature player and not just think about my batting but other aspects of the game.”

And, despite living most of his life in Australia, Naqvi is holding talks with Zimbabwe Cricket regarding national qualification.

A family affair

Antum Naqvi playing for Mid West RhinosIMAGE SOURCE,ANTUM NAQVI

Naqvi also bowls right-arm off-breaks, and has 20 wickets at an average of 23.90 in first-class cricket

Naqvi’s move from Australia to Africa last year was the result of advice from former Zimbabwe international Solomon Mire, who played 58 times for his country between 2014 and 2019.

Mire now lives in Melbourne and is the director of Advance2Play, which promotes cricket development.

“Solomon used to come and play in Darwin during the off-season. I watched him play growing up at club cricket,” Navqi said.

“I’ve known him for about eight or nine years and he showed me what comes with cricket, as a professional cricketer, so that’s how our friendship grew.

“He felt that I was ready to move to the next step in cricket and told me the Rhinos in Zimbabwe were struggling at the time.”

Unbeknown to Naqvi, his journey to Zimbabwe would not only help him take his game to the next level but also help his younger brother Awad.

The 21-year-old has signed a professional deal with the Tuskers, and has hit three half-centuries in seven first-class outings.

“When I came (to Zimbabwe), my brother Awad and father came over to watch my debut game,” Naqvi said.

“Luckily my brother brought his kit so he could train here. After I scored a century on debut, there was talk about my brother being here as well.

“Tuskers asked my brother to come for training, and after that they asked to have him for the season. He has done well, scored a half-century on debut and Tuskers have been happy with him since.”

Naqvi would now cherish the opportunity to follow one of this heroes and play for his adopted nation.

Pakistan-born Sikandar Raza moved to Zimbabwe in 2002 and has been a member of the Chevrons since 2013.

The 37-year-old, who will play English county cricket for the first time this year, has gone on to develop into arguably the key player in Zimbabwe’s T20 side.

“Raza is definitely one of the best in the world. He knows his game, he knows his bowling,” Naqvi said.

“I want to be a similar player to him. We are both batting all-rounders and I am somewhat following in his footsteps.”

Zimbabwe will co-host the 2027 Cricket World Cup alongside South Africa and Namibia and, on his current course, Naqvi could well complete his incredible cricketing take off.

Post published in: Cricket

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *