Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
It has been a few months since Hasan Ali has played international cricket, but the entire landscape of Pakistan cricket has changed during that time.
Hasan last played for Pakistan during the World Cup earlier this year, where he seriously failed to impress as he took two wickets in four games at an average of 128 and an economy rate of 7.75.
Since then, he has been nursing a back injury and has only featured in one domestic match, which saw him represent Central Punjab in their Quaid-e-Azam Trophy match against Southern Punjab in Lahore in September.
In that game, Hasan took figures of 3-100 off 22 overs in the first innings and went wicketless in the second, where he conceded 17 runs off three overs. With the match being a high-scoring affair, it ended as a draw.
Ten days before Hasan played that domestic game, Pakistan unveiled former captain Misbah-ul-Haq as their new head coach and chief selector, while Waqar Younis was brought in as the national team’s bowling coach.
With a new-look coaching staff following the departure of Pakistan’s previous management, which included Mickey Arthur as head coach and Azhar Mahmood as bowling coach, Misbah immediately recalled players who had been performing well on the domestic circuit for the limited overs series against Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka’s limited overs tour of Pakistan in September to October was a big enough deal as they played a three-match ODI series in Karachi, which Pakistan won 2-0, before the tourists, who were missing many of their key players, stunned the men in green by whitewashing them 3-0 in the Twenty20 series in Lahore.
However, something else that grabbed headlines was the fact that Misbah brought back players like Umar Akmal, Ahmed Shehzad and Iftikhar Ahmed for the series.
Akmal and Shehzad failed to make the most of their opportunities as the former didn’t score any runs in the two Twenty20 Internationals he played, while Shehzad mustered 17 runs in two games at a dismal average of 8.50.
While Akmal and Shehzad flopped during the series, Misbah’s faith in Iftikhar paid off as the 29-year-old power hitter scored 60 runs in the two ODIs he played at a strike-rate of 142.85 and made 42 runs in two Twenty20 Internationals at an average of 42 and a strike-rate of 131.25.
Misbah’s sweeping changes continued for the ongoing tour of Australia as he called up young talents like 16-year-old seamer Naseem Shah and 19-year-old pace bowler Muhammad Musa.
With his sights firmly set on the future, as shown in his decision to draft two uncapped and inexperienced players – Naseem and Musa – in the squad for the tour of Australia, questions have been raised about what the future holds for Hasan.
During the World Cup, Misbah was less than impressed with Hasan’s bowling and said that he needed to improve his lengths.
Let’s not forget that this is the same Hasan Ali who became a household name with his performance at the Champions Trophy in 2017. The 25-year-old carved through the opposition batsmen time and time again and celebrated in his trademark style.
Hasan was named Player of the Tournament for being the highest wicket-taker, finishing with 13 wickets in five matches at an incredible average of 14.69.
Since then, Hasan’s form has dipped as he has taken 28 wickets in eight Tests at an average of 30.03, 40 wickets in 32 ODIs at an average of 35.72 and 25 wickets in 23 Twenty20 Internationals at an average of 27.20.
With varying reports on how serious his back injury is, coupled with the fact that he struggled to have an impact whatsoever during the World Cup, the clock could be ticking for Hasan as Misbah has already made it abundantly clear that he is ready to invest in young talents even though critics feel that they are not ready for the hardships of international cricket.
Furthermore, with Pakistan’s pace attack already brimming with exciting bowlers like Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Khan Shinwari and the duo of Naseem and Musa, there is no doubt that Hasan will have to regroup and rediscover the form that propelled him to stardom at the Champions Trophy two years ago.
If he manages to do that, we will see the resurgence of a bowler that once dominated and proved to be a living nightmare for opposition batsmen.
Also, to be truthful, it’s been too long since we’ve seen Hasan unleash his eccentric celebration, am I right?
Feature written by Bimal Mirwani