'I look forward to meeting David Warner and talking to him about batting.'
'Our mindset is the same. We both look to dominate the bowlers.'
The Indian Premier League Players Auction was memorable for one Jammu and Kashmir teenager.
18-year-old Abdul Samad was the only player from the Kashmir valley to get the nod at this auction when he was bought by Sunrisers Hyderabad for his base price of Rs 20 lakh.
He becomes the fourth player from Jammu and Kashmir to be picked by an IPL franchise after Parvez Rasool, Manzoor Dar and Rasikh Salaam Dar.
Samad was on the radar of the Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals. Both teams had called him for trials where he ended up putting up some good performances with the bat.
While many were surprised to see Samad getting the nod from Sunrisers, his team-mates and coaches were quietly confident about his chances of making it to the IPL following his good showing in the Vijay Hazare Trophy (the national 50 overs tournament) and the Mushtaq Ali Trophy (the national T20 tournament).
"It is a big moment for me to be picked in the IPL. My ultimate aim is to play for India. Whenever I get a chance in the IPL, I will hope to do well," Samad tells Rediff.com's Harish Kotian.
"I did well in the trials for Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals and after that I performed well for J&K in the Mushtaq Ali Trophy and the Vijay Hazare Trophy so I was feeling confident that I would be picked in the auction," he adds.
Former India pacer Irfan Pathan, who is the mentor of the J&K team, reveals he was instantly impressed when he first saw the youngster last year.
"I first saw Samad during the trials in Jammu last year. I knew he was special because on that wicket all the other batsmen were struggling, but this guy was batting so well, driving on the up. I told him I will keep an eye on him," Pathan tells Rediff.com.
"I had advised him to score big runs in Under-19 cricket because I had checked his previous scores, where he was scoring runs but not carrying on to play big knocks. So I told him to play big knocks and focus on winning matches for his team, " Pathan adds.
Asked what Samad so special, Pathan points out: "Being a tall guy, he can hit the ball straight and long. He has a lot of time when he bats. He will learn and will get better with time."
"What I find exciting is that a lot of specialist batsman nowadays are finger spinners, but he is a pure wrist spinner, that is a very rare and special quality."
Samad first caught everyone's attention when he smashed 68 from 53 balls, inclusive of seven sixes, against Gujarat in the Vijay Hazare Trophy game in Jaipur in October.
He scored 237 runs in eight games in the Vijay Hazare Trophy at a strike rate of 125, hitting 15 sixes and 16 fours. In the Mushtaq Ali Trophy he scored 120 runs in six games at a strike rate of 150.
Following his impressive performances in the limited overs tournaments, Samad was included in the J&K team for the Ranji Trophy, where he has made a dream start.
He started off with a sparkling innings of 60 from 46 balls, inclusive of three fours and five sixes, in his Ranji debut match against Uttarakhand, which J&K won by 253 runs.
Samad followed it up with another good innings of 79 from 89 balls, laced with 10 fours and three sixes, in the next match against Maharashtra, which J&K won by 54 runs. This timely knock came a few hours before the IPL auction on Thursday.
The youngster reveals his favourite batsman is Rohit Sharma and their batting styles are quite similar -- relying on timing more than power to take on the bowlers.
"I am a naturally aggressive batsman, that is my normal style. From my childhood, I have batted positively. In the Under-16 also, I had smashed three quickfire fifties."
In the IPL, Samad looks forward to meeting Australian batting star David Warner and get a few tips on batting.
"It will be a good experience to meet the top international stars in the Sunrisers Hyderabad team during the IPL. I look forward to meeting David Warner and talking to him about batting. Our mindset when batting is the same because we both look to dominate the bowlers, so it will be good to talk to him and learn a lot of things from him during the IPL."
In the age of T20 cricket, it is rare to see a young batsman not attempt or try to learn fancy shots like the ramp shots or the reverse sweep.
"I like to hit the ball straight, I also play the cut shot and pull shot well. I don't play the reverse sweep because if I am getting runs playing straight, then why play those shots?" explains Samad.
The influence of Parvez Rasool, the first Jammu and Kashmir cricketer to play in the IPL, is clear on the youngster.
"Parvez bhai has motivated a lot of youngsters in J&K with his achievement. He always advises me to think big and not be satisfied with small achievements. We are all passionate as cricketers. A lot of young kids took up cricket in J&K after watching Parvez bhai thinking that even we can do it," he said.
While the adulation pours in following the IPL Auction, Samad prefers to stay grounded and work towards his ultimate aim.
"I want to play cricket at the highest level. I am working hard every day to achieve it."