The quick is skipping Central Punjab’s first few Pakistan Cup matches to manage his workload
A remarkable and unexpectedly bountiful domestic season has left Hasan Ali on the verge of a national team comeback, as Pakistan prepare to take on South Africa in Tests and T20Is from the end of January at home.
Pakistan announce their squad for South Africa’s visit later this week, and one of the key questions is likely to revolve around strengthening an attack that has taken 20 wickets just twice in their last 13 Tests away from home. Ali is expected to be part of it, putting him in line for a first Test appearance in two years.
“I didn’t watch the New Zealand games, but followed them,” he told ESPNcricinfo. “Performances obviously weren’t great and it gets you down. But I’m looking forward to hopefully returning to all formats with the national team. It’s up to the selection committee and team management if they think I can be a part of the team.”
Ali’s last international was the World Cup game against India in June 2019 when he returned 1 for 84 in nine overs, the culmination of a period of poor white-ball form. Since then he has been through the wringer, with a series of injuries, to the back, ribs and groin. He returned this season and after yet another injury, he took on the captaincy of Central Punjab, and took them to the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final – they were in last place when he took over – where he played a central role in a historic tied game. A century in the chase of 356, plus five wickets, capped off an impressive individual season in which he took 43 wickets and scored runs at just under 25.
“What was in my control – my fitness – I showed by bowling 260 overs [in the season], 43 wickets, runs too, played nine back-to-back four-day games, that too in Karachi with tough conditions for bowlers. I think there isn’t anything lacking in my case, the ball is in the selection committee’s court”
No fast bowler took more wickets, and no fast bowler has been as impressive in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy since domestic cricket underwent its last major revamp two seasons ago, with fewer teams and batsman-friendly wickets.
“When you’re out, you have to show your fitness and performances,” Ali said. “What was in my control – my fitness – I showed by bowling 260 overs [in the season], 43 wickets, runs too, played nine back-to-back four-day games, that too in Karachi with tough conditions for bowlers. I think there isn’t anything lacking in my case, the ball is in the selection committee’s court.”
With his workload in mind, Ali has sat out the opening matches of Central Punjab’s one-day campaign in the Pakistan Cup, but he is expected to return. Meanwhile, the glow and regret from the Quaid-e-Azam season longers. Ali was at the non-striker’s end at the climax of the game as his new-ball partner and last man Waqas Maqsood chipped a catch to mid-on with one to win. He had asked his colleague not to panic.
“When he was facing, I had a lot of belief in him because he can bat,” Ali said. “He can stick around. He took a couple of runs. I just said to him don’t panic, we’re just a run a way. All we need is a single. He couldn’t control his nerves, I guess, went for a big hit. Afterwards he cried, (he) was really disappointed. It really hit him later.
“We got so close but couldn’t quite get over the line. We started off [this season] very slow as a unit. We lost our first two games. Players went off on national duty and we got players below them, and it takes some time to adjust to a bigger stage. I just clarified roles for each player.
“At one stage, we had lost that final. Our main batsmen were out but what we had was that we could play with this positive mindset and see what happens. We got really close but just couldn’t win it. Obviously, there is some sense of regret after doing all that hard work as a team and then to not win it. As a team, we’re satisfied. We’ve learnt a fair bit and gained a lot of experience which will be good for us in the future.”
Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo