Zafar’s blast seals FDR’s first PSAL cricket title

It was a championship-winning blast that just a few months ago wouldn’t have been possible.

Back in December, Abrar Zafar wasn’t even at FDR, let alone living in the state of New York. The junior left the Gravesend school and headed to Columbus, Ohio with his uncle Ulam Abas to work at his grocery store, leaving behind the hope of playing for a city cricket title.

“When I went there I felt like I was not coming back,” Zafar said.

But there he stood with a bat in his hand producing a six-run blast over the right section of the boundary to clinch top-seeded and unbeaten FDR’s first PSAL cricket crown Saturday afternoon at Baisley Pond Park in Jamaica.

After No.3 Long Island City tied the score at 100 on its final ball of the 20th over, the Cougars rebounded to win the super over 6-4 thanks to Zafar, who played for New York region’s U19 team. He was also the bowler for the final over and in the super over.

“He is one of the guys I can rely on, and he delivered today,” FDR coach Gregory Fisher said. “I thought it was going to go for four [points], but it cleared the boundary. I’m the happiest man today.”

Fisher has senior Jazeb Tariq to thank as well. The captain called Zafar in Ohio on behalf of his teammates. He told their star batsman that they wanted and needed him to return. It didn’t take much convincing to get Zafar, who left his parents in Pakistan for the US at 16, back to New York. He and his uncle returned in February.

“He was one of the really best in the whole game,” Tariq said. “I wanted him on the team… “He knew this was probably our last chance to win a championship.”

Zafar wasn’t the hitting star early, scoring just one run up until his decisive swing. He admitted his nerves got the best of him on the final ball of the 20-over regulation. Long Island City (13-3) got just the run to tie on a Muntasir Rana single and Zafar allowed just four runs in the super over.

“I was feeling like if I give him a bad ball I was going to die,” he said.

Zahib Tariq lasted from nearly the start to the finish and scored 39 runs for FDR (17-0). The Cougars shut out LIC, which was making its first playoff appearance, in its first over and limited the scoring early on. Davinderpa Singh, who scored 23 runs, led a late charge with a six-run swing in the 15th over. Attaur Khan scored 25 runs and Jawwad Khan added 21 for the Bulldogs.

“The slow [hitting] start was costly for us,” LIC coach Dharmvir Gehlaut said.

The season was still a special one for a team that has just three seniors on its roster to go along with nine freshmen. LIC lost its first two matches and won 13 straight after that, including a 102-101 win over Lincoln in the semifinals.

“They have years to go,” Gehlaut said. “They learned from this experience.”

FDR, on the other hand, will never forget it and the journey that brought them and Zafar there. They mobbed him after the ball sailed just past them and eventually lifted him up on their shoulders in celebration.

“When I was batting I knew we needed four runs,” Zafar said. “I could do that easily.”

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