When Safyaan Sharif started playing cricket in Largo, he did not expect the sport to take him from Fife to Fort Lauderdale.
Nor could he have imagined pounding towards the crease in Oman, where Scotland are in action this morning against the Netherlands in the opening match of a Twenty20International quadrangular tournament also including the hosts and Ireland.
Sharif, who moved to Buckhaven with his family from England at the age of just seven, bowled the yorker heard all around Scotland – and most parts of Britain too – in June as England succumbed to the Scottish cricket team for the first-ever time.
One of the pleasant repercussions, along with featuring on the front page of most newspapers the morning after his heroics, was his agent getting in touch to say: fancy a trip to Florida this winter?
Sharif played in an ICC approved US Open T20 tournament held in Fort Lauderdale just before Christmas along with Scottish team-mate, and fellow hero of the hour against England, Calum MacLeod, pictured. Also featuring were the likes of Andre Russell, the West Indies international, and South African all rounder Wayne Parnell. In total 24 teams such as the Florida Scorpions, competed for the title, won by the California Bears against Somerset Cavaliers.
“I got contacted through my agent – me and Calum went there, luckily I got picked to play,” explained the 27-year-old. “It was good experience. There were a lot of international players playing. There was a lot of hype, big stadium, floodlights, and a crowd all around the stadium. It was great to be part of. We were there a week, four days of cricket and a couple of days to relax.”
It was a very appealing way to end a memorable year, one containing emotional extremes: heartache as well as jubilation. The joy was obviously what was experienced at the Grange when his in-swinging yorker dismissed England’s last man Mark Wood lbw and set in motion a mini pitch invasion after Scotland’s six-run victory in the ODI clash.
“I had to back myself to nail a yorker,” he recalled. “Luckily it came out right. And I managed to get that wicket and scrape that win for us. It was very important. The way we played we deserved to win that game. Obviously England are a top quality side who put a big fight in. But at the end of the day we managed to scrape it and cross the line. It was very big for us.
“I just remember how the crowd went wild, and the way we celebrated – and when it came to interviews I had nothing to say, I was lost for words. It was one of the best feelings ever. And then the next day every newspaper had my picture on the front. It was a good feeling. I have kept them all, well my wife has them all. She sent me a video of all the newspapers that day because obviously we still had games to come against Pakistan. It was very good to see that and seeing cricket have the spotlight, for once.”
There was heartache too following the failure to qualify for this summer’s cricket World Cup after a controversial, weather-affected defeat to West Indies last March.
Sharif’s roots are in Pakistan, the country his father still supports along with Scotland.
“Obviously it would have been much better if we were there – my dad says that too, he said you guys should be there,” he added. “We were unlucky in the last game v West Indies. We were just unlucky with the rain.
“The World Cup is a special thing. I was lucky to be a part of it in 2015 and I was looking forward to this year. Unfortunately it was not to be. I’ll watch the tournament but we have important games of our own to focus on.
“Our aim is to build the momentum towards May, when we have four international games, against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.
“It is another opportunity for us to set a mark. After those games we have important world cricket league and then following that T20 World Cup qualifiers.
“I wouldn’t say there were too many fixtures but they are all very important. The way we start in Oman will be a big stepping-stone for us before the summer.”