Growing up in a cricket-crazed country where the game is followed like a religion, I was no different. For as long as I can remember, I have always imagined myself in that green kit playing for Pakistan someday. This wild fantasy started to take the shape of a dream that I, without realizing, started to chase very seriously, especially after my school’s cricket coach made a prediction in front of the whole class that someday I was going to be on the national team. Until ninth grade, my goal of becoming a cricketer was fairly clear in my head, especially since I saw no objection from my family to my fast growing passion for the game. And as long as the grade book showed consistent good results, it was not considered a problem.
Shortly after graduating from school I started to play zonal cricket. For those who don’t know what zonal cricket is: each city is divided into zones and each zone represents a few cricket clubs. Many of these players go on to play for Pakistan. Hence, this is a useful channel for people who are serious about turning the sport into their profession. However, it demanded serious commitment. We had to go to the club 5 days a week and train vigorously and could not afford to skip a day or be late. I was enjoying every bit of it and managed to make my mark, on the pitch and as a player, right from the start.
Several days passed and it was time for me to choose my major for intermediate college. Without thinking, I registered for pre-medical courses. This was the moment I realized I had a strong inclination towards medicine and so I now had a plan B in terms of a career path. Raised in a middle class household of Karachi, I was well aware of the importance of ‘studies’ and ‘a stable career’ and all the other expectations that come along with being the only son to ageing parents with increasing responsibilities.
My father, a doctor himself, kept silent about my passion for cricket, but he never seemed to be satisfied with my career plans. My hours-long practice sessions and visits to faraway locations of the city for matches bothered him. Although he never outright stopped me from chasing my dream, he would often randomly talk about medicine or appreciate a relative who was pursuing it. He would often tell me that those who fail to make it to the national level end up with a difficult life because they have no alternate career path and the feeling of failure continues to haunt them. An example of this was my own coach.
On a hot Friday afternoon, the day after my tenth grade results got announced, I was on my way to a practice session which I wasn’t that excited about. I shared my good results with my coach and he said, “It’ll be better for a student like you to carry on with your studies and not take up cricket as a profession.” This hit me hard and I began to question my future plans. The busy college days began and eventually I had to give up zonal cricket realizing I couldn’t manage it with my academic work.
Two years later, I got myself into a medical college only to discover a whole new world. Since the day of my orientation, I could feel that I belonged here. I fell in love with medicine; the heavy textbooks, lecture halls, and wards. Although my passion for cricket did not diminish, after this point I never looked back. I never knew how rewarding being a doctor was until I became one. A cricketer can never feel the satisfaction which comes from healing someone.
I still find myself watching a match in the wards though. I suppose our childhood dreams never truly leave us. But each morning when I put on white coat, I feel no regret having exchanged the green cap for it.