KARACHI: Batting prodigy Haider Ali has pledged to make impact during Pakistan’s upcoming tour to England after coming through junior level ranks to gain maiden selection in the senior national squad, following a successful domestic season.
Haider — one of two uncapped players in Pakistan’s 29-man touring squad with slow left-armer Kashif Bhatti being the other — made a rather agonising first-class debut during the revamped Quaid-e-Azam Trophy for Northern last September when he was dismissed only one short of century by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa leg-spinner Mohammad Irfan Khan in the game at Abbottabad. After scoring 99 in the first innings, the right-hander scored 27 in the drawn fixture Northern were forced to follow on.
A product of U-19 cricket the youngster grew in stature as the season panned out — accumulating 645 runs from 13 innings of seven first-class matches at a healthy average of 49.61 with the aid of two hundreds and three half-centuries — and capped it by shining for Peshawar Zalmi during the fifth Pakistan Super League (PSL) edition. He made 239 runs in nine games, averaging 29.87 with an excellent strike of 158.27 while batting in the top and middle order.
Haider, while addressing an online video conference on Thursday, termed his selection in the senior side as a reward for hard work and now dreams of making a major impact in the England series if opportunities come his way.
“At this point in time I feel very excited to be included in the Pakistan squad because this is the aim of every upcoming cricketer to represent the country and perform at the senior level,” Haider said.
“The circumstances, no doubt, will be very different because of the Covid-19 pandemic but the conditions for cricket also will be challenging. As the youngest member of the squad and the lack of international experience, I’ll be getting the golden chance of learning from the team’s senior players.”
Recalling the disappointment of missing out on marking first-class debut with a three-figure, Haider, who hails from Sheen Bagh — a remote village in the Attock district — said he was crestfallen at the time.
“Indeed it came a massive shock to me and I was extremely sad at not getting that century. The setback made be more and more stronger mentally and I promised myself that I’ll score at least one [hundred] in the competition but scored two in the end [133 against Balochistan at KRL Stadium in Rawalpindi and 134 in the final against eventual champions Central Punjab in Karachi],” the right-hander, who is primarily an opening batsman, reminisced.
“I enjoyed scoring century in the final because we were up against a very good bowling unit. Now I want to proof myself at the highest level and that’s my chief aim for which I’ll be giving my 200 percent.
“The coming tour will also afford me the chance to learn from a great like Younis Khan. Having him as the batting coach is the best thing at the start of my international because he is a role model for many players.”
Haider said he’s comfortable batting at any position as per requirements of the team.
“Although I have been mostly opening the innings as I did in U-19 and first-class formats, there is no worry in the mind if the team needs me to bat in a different slot. In the PSL I batted at various spots because that was the plan given to me by the team management.”
Revealing his idol as a cricketer, Haider Rohit Sharma because he loved the way the Indian opener bats in all formats and would like to play big knocks.
“Rohit is a wonderful batsman to watch because he scores at the same pace, be it Test cricket, One-day Internationals or Twenty20 Internationals. I’ve been following his exploits for a long time and the best thing I observed is the manner in which he collects the runs,” Haider pointed out.
“Look at his numbers. Once he gets to 50, his next targets are 100, 150 and so forth. I want to be play in the same way by scoring heavily.”
Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2020