KARACHI: After a fairy-tale debut at the highest level with century apiece in his first two Tests, Abid Ali was destined to move places. However, what he had achieved against Sri Lanka during that landmark series in December 2019 was forgotten rather soon.
The diminutive opener’s returns from the next 14 innings since scoring a fifth-day 102 — unbeaten — on a rain-marred debut at the Pindi Cricket Stadium and an attractive 174 in the second innings of the Karachi Test, were meagre with just one 50-plus knock —60 in the first of two Tests against England at Southampton. Speculations of him following his regular partner, Shan Masood, into premature exit started doing the rounds.
But Abid somehow survived the cull despite mustering scores of 25, 0, 26 and 25 in the two New Zealand Tests ad equally poor sequence of 4 and 10 at Karachi plus 6 and 13 at Rawalpindi during Pakistan’s historic 2-0 defeat of South Africa early in the year while his average plummeted to 37 after 10 Tests.
“Younis Khan [Pakistan batting coach] had faith in me during times even when I was finding the runs dried up. I was feeling the heat but Younis stood by me when the going was tough,” a relieved Abid told reporters on Monday after being adjudged player-of-the-match for epic undefeated knock of 215.
“He [Younis] kept saying during each practice session that I was doing nicely at training and was middling the ball well as anyone else. But it was lack of runs that kept piling up pressure. Younis often says that these ups and downs are part of our life and we shouldn’t expect instant success every time we take the field. His philosophy makes sense that things aren’t in our hands. No matter and how hard you try, your destiny is not your control. “I was trying to get runs over the past several series but just couldn’t find my way through.”
Abid — the 33-year-old right-hander from Lahore — considered the Zimbabwe series as one of the significant moments for him because back in his mind he was aware of the pitfalls.
“The double century is something I’ll always cherish as probably the defining moment of my career because the whole experience [of batting] taught me many things. People may not rate Zimbabwe much or in the same breath as the fancied teams in international cricket but they definitely challenged Pakistan with ball in conditions which weren’t as comfortable as many thought.
“The pitches during the series were not conducive for fast scoring because of the slow nature that made it hard for free-flowing style of batting.
“I was trying to get runs over the past several series but just couldn’t find my way through. I went back to the NHPL [National High Performance Centre] where Mohammad Yousuf [who is the NHPC’s batting coach] worked with me and try to minimise the problems of my overall game.
“I never lost hope because Yousuf, Younis and [Pakistan head coach] Misbah-ul-Haq gave huge amount of confidence by simply saying in one sentence ‘you are only one innings away from a big score’. That’s why I rate this knock as very special,” Abid said.
Now closing on a 50 average — he averages 49.64 after making 844 runs — Abid will be hoping to build on from his successful series in Zimbabwe where he amassed 275 from two innings and was dismissed just once — after scoring 60 in the first Test — when he travels to the Caribbean islands in July.
Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2021