“Who is this Hasan Ali?” asked someone in the media box in Birmingham as Pakistan played a warm-up clash against Bangladesh. But that journalist can actually be forgiven for not knowing who Hasan Ali was ahead of the Champions Trophy; he was in the same position as many other cricket followers around the world who were unfamiliar with Hasan and his cricketing skills. However, in the last couple of weeks, the name of Hasan Ali has become known the world over – the player of the tournament in Pakistan’s victorious Champions Trophy copy.
Hailing from Mandi Bahuddin, the 23-year-old has had a meteoric rise even by Pakistani cricketing standards. Some said he was too short, while other “experts” felt he didn’t have the pace to trouble international batsmen. Some even said that he looked frail and was a dead cert for serious injury.
But making his First Class debut at the age of 19, Hasan caught the eye right from the start. Taking five wickets on debut for Sialkot, Hasan impressed all and sundry with his work ethic and his willingness to learn. In the 2015 National T20 Cup, he picked up eight wickets in four matches under the captaincy of Shoaib Malik, and so the seeds were sown for a fruitful career.
Hasan has not looked back since being signed by Peshawar Zalmi in the Pakistan Super League, after impressing in domestic T20 tournaments. He was soon identified as a bowler with plentiful talent and toured England with the Pakistan A squad in 2016. He then made his international debut in an ODI against Ireland. In a short space of time, Hasan has progressed leaps and bounds both physically and in terms of his skill levels.
Current Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood is a huge admirer of Hasan and has often praised the youngster for his eagerness to work hard and train on areas of his cricket that he needs to improve. Hasan in turn paid tribute to the work that Azhar has put in with him, after the incredible win against India in the Champions Trophy final.
“Azhar Mahmood has given me great input and feedback on my bowling and that has made a huge difference. He has advised me to bowl cross-seam when I come on to bowl as first change, so I will get assistance with swing in my bowling. These are the little tips that an experienced cricketer like Azhar Mahmood can give a young bowler like me. These sort of things are a big help for a cricketer like myself who is new to the game and learning my trade,” he said.
Hasan has been one of the characters of the tournament during the Champions Trophy and provided fans some humorous moments with his pumped-up celebration when he takes a wicket. A jovial and likeable character, Hasan is never far away from a prank on a teammate. However behind the fun and the smiles, there is a young man with steely determination and a cricketer with big plans who is already looking ahead to the 2019 World Cup.
“I would like to thank the Almighty that in my first ICC event I was able to accomplish the two fantastic achievements of winning the Player of the Tournament award and also winning the award for the most wickets in the Champions Trophy. However it doesn’t stop there and I am now fully focused towards the next major ICC event which is the 2019 World Cup and giving a repeat performance.”
Pakistan may have trounced India in the Champions Trophy final, but Hasan was modest after the win and praised the opposition for their efforts in the tournament. “India are a great side and have some great players, but it was one of those days where we clicked and our plans worked. We were the better team no doubt, but that does not mean India is a bad team by any means,” he said.
Hasan Ali would not have been on the minds of too many cricket followers when it came to predicting who the leading wicket-taker would be at the Champions Trophy. But he surprised many and ended with the accolade. However, Hasan explained that he came to England with the target of being the leading wicket-taker.
“I know people will say that it’s easy for me to say this now, but when I was named in the Pakistan squad for the Champions Trophy I had two aims, one to win the trophy for my country and secondly to be the top wicket-taker. I’m delighted that I could accomplish both goals and it feels like a dream come true for me,” he said.
“What has also been very pleasing has been that I have taken the wickets of some big players, like Eoin Morgan. My family members had said to me to get Morgan out against England and I did exactly that which was satisfying,” he added.
Whilst Hasan caught the eye of the watching world winning two awards at the Champions Trophy and being named in the team of the tournament, he remained humble about his efforts and attributed his success to his team-mates. “I would like to give credit to the whole team and our management for this success. I would also like to thank the people of Pakistan for their best wishes and prayers which helped us win the Champions Trophy, we couldn’t have done it without them,” he said.
A popular member of the squad, Hasan has made a huge impact already after being picked in all three formats for Pakistan. He gave credit to his experienced colleagues for guiding him and helping him on his cricketing journey, stating “I have a great relationship with my seniors in the team who never hesitate to guide me in all aspects of my cricket. Their advice has played a tremendous role in my success for which I am very grateful. I hope they continue to guide me and help me in the future.”
If nurtured and if he can remain level-headed, Hasan can be a huge asset for Pakistan cricket. But for the moment, he will just savour the glory of a Champions Trophy win in style.
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