Pakistani born Kaleem Sana has been selected by the Canadian national cricket team, months after his performances in the Canadian based T20 league, the Global T20.
Kaleem started his professional career in 2009 as a 15 year old, debuting for the Pakistan Customs against the Karachi Whites in a first-class game. A few months later, he was selected by the U19 Pakistan team to tour Zimbabwe, where he finished with 3 wickets in 2 games at an average of 20.
“The tour of Zimbabwe was great for me. It was the first time I have left the country and it felt so special representing my country. It pushed me to work even harder so that I can represent Pakistan at the top level, and that became my dream.” Said Kaleem.
After his outing in Zimbabwe, later that year, Kaleem was selected in the Pakistan U19 World Cup team. He played 3 World Cup warm up games, where he took 6 wickets, including the wickets of Jimmy Neesham and Tom Latham, two players who have now gone on to play international cricket.
Despite his showing in the U19 World Cup warm up games, Kaleem was later omitted from the squad before he’d play a game due to injury “It was a devastating blow to be withdrawn from the squad at the last minute. I had the opportunity I worked so hard for, but it left me at the last moment”
After his withdrawal from the squad, Kaleem waited over a year for his next cricketing opportunity, where he was selected to play for his native Rawalpindi.
His big break came however when he was selected for a departmental team, “I was selected to play for Pakistan Television in the Presidents One Day Cup, and it was a great opportunity for me.”
Kaleem finished the tournament having only played 3 games. In his most recent game for the team, he took 4 wickets for 16 runs. This game was the last list-a game Kaleem has played to date.
One year after playing for PTV, Kaleem received a surprise call up for another department team, this time Khan Research Laboratories “It was a surprise call to play for KRL, because they brought me in at the last minute to play. I didn’t play any games for them until they called me to play the quarterfinal. I only bowled in the first-innings where I took 3 wickets for my team.”
The wickets taken by Kaleem in this game were of Abid Ali, Babar Azam and Naveed Yasin This game was the last first-class game Kaleem has played to date.
After representing the Pakistan U19 cricket team, and departments such as Khan Research Laboratories and PTV, the left arm bowler was forced to move to abroad in 2015 “After the death of my father, me and my family struggled financially, so I had to move somewhere which would benefit me. Unfortunately I had to leave cricket so I moved to Vancouver in Canada to work in a printing shop and I have been here working for the past few years.”
Despite leaving cricket at a professional level, Kaleem continued to play the sport casually at the club level “I hardly played much cricket, but whatever cricket I have played it enabled me to be selected for the GT20 in 2019, a tournament which has changed my life.”
Kaleem was picked for the Winnipeg Hawks in the 2019 GT20 tournament, and finished the tournament as a winner, having bowled the final over of the tournament to Andre Russell.
“We were getting hit around the park, and it was now the final over of the tournament. I decided to go to my captain and say I want to bowl, because this is where you really test yourself. On small boundaries, on a great batting pitch, against Andre Russell, in a final, it doesn’t get tougher than this.”
With the equation down to 3 needed from 3 balls, Kaleem managed to only give away 2 runs to the in-form and dangerous Andre Russell who was batting on 44* off 16 balls resulting in a super over.
“After I bowled well to Russell, the game went to a super over, where I once again told my captain I want to bowl. Super overs require superheroes and that’s what I wanted to be.”
Kaleem bowled the super over to international batsmen in Andre Russell, Shoaib Malik and Rassie Van der Dussen and finished his over conceding 9. His team went on to chase the total down, and then lift the trophy.
“It was probably my cricketing highlight winning that tournament. I was nervous coming into the tournament, because I had only practiced properly for 4 weeks leading up to the tournament, before that I hardly played any cricket apart from occasionally on the weekend.”
“But the saddest part for me is that my father did not get to witness this.”
Just months after his performances in the GT20 tournament, Kaleem finds himself a member of the Canadian national team “it really is a blessing from Allah that I am selected by Canada. It will be a dream come true for me. I was unfortunate that I couldn’t fulfil my previous dream of playing for Pakistan, but I can now at least say I am an international cricketer.”
Kaleem was a team mate of the likes of Babar Azam and Ahmed Shehzad during his u19 days “For the past few years I watched my teammates on TV, and although of course I was happy for them, it made me quite upset that they have gone on to be so successful at the top level, and I am here.
But now I am happy that things are looking bright and I can restart my cricketing career.”