Hasan Ali on guard against under-strength NZ, eyes all-round show

Published September 16, 2021
RAWALPINDI: Pakistan players take part in an intra-squad practice match at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Wednesday.
— Tanveer Shahzad/White Star
RAWALPINDI: Pakistan players take part in an intra-squad practice match at the Pindi Cricket Stadium on Wednesday. — Tanveer Shahzad/White Star

RAWALPINDI: Hasan Ali insists that Pakistan have to showcase their top game to prevail over New Zealand when the two sides start the three-match One-day International series in Rawalpindi from Friday.

The pace bowler warned his team-mates not to take seriously the status of the New Zealand squad, who are missing several first-choice stars, including captain Kane Williamson as well as the senior pacers Tim Southee and Trent Boult.

“I think nobody would want to underestimate this New Zealand side. They certainly have the potential to compete well against us,” right-armer Hasan told a virtual news presser before Pakistan’s training session at the Pindi Cricket Stadium. “Obviously they are coming into this ODI series on the back of their Bangladesh tour. The players had the experience of playing in dry conditions [of Dhaka].

“My philosophy is always that one should never disregard any opposition because in my book in every give match the [competing] teams are on equal footing when they cross the boundary [of the playing field]. Therefore, I believe New Zealand are capable of giving Pakistan a close run for their money,” the Mandi Bahauddin-born Hasan added.

Hasan, who had been through a start-stop-start sort of run in international cricket because of fitness issues in recent months, pledged he will emerge as an all-round cricketer and will continue to work hard on his batting.

“My desire is to be a useful batter down the order because batting is one area I really love in the few opportunities I had. I’m giving added focus on batting nowadays,” the 27-year-old said. “And if I keep on improving skills with the bat, I’m confident of becoming an all-rounder good enough to serve Pakistan in all [three] formats. Moreover, it’s indeed a blessing in disguise to have Abdul Razzaq coming into the squad as part of the backroom staff. He was one of the finest all-rounders of his time, and for sure, I would say he has come as a God-sent opportunity for me to learn from his experience.”

Hasan welcomed the induction of Vernon Philander as Pakistan’s bowling consultant for the Twenty20 World Cup, which begins next month in the UAE and Oman, while saying the value former South Africa seamer would bring would help to benefit the national side.

“Vernon will join Pakistan [for the World Cup] with a legacy to be proud of. His records speak for themselves. I’m excited at the prospect of sharing the dressing room with one of the finest seam bowlers of the modern age. And the knowledge he would impart to our bowling unit will be part of most treasured cricketing lessons,” Hasan stressed.

USMAN, ZAHID SHORTLISTED FOR ODI SERIES OPENER

Meanwhile, leg-spinners Usman Qadir and Zahid Khan along with all-rounder Shadab Khan were shortlisted in the 12-man Pakistan squad for the opening fixture of the ODI series against the Black Caps.

The presence of three specialist spinners along with Iftikhar Ahmed — who also doubles up as a handy off-spinner — and left-handed Saud Shakeel (who also bowls occasional left-arm spin) gives a brief hint of what kind of pitch will be dished out for the series opener.

Zahid, the 33-year-old from Dadu, has yet to be capped in ODI cricket but made a series-winning T20 International debut against South Africa last February when he snared three wickets in Lahore in his solitary appearance.

Usman — the 28-year-old son of legendary Pakistan leg-spinner Abdul Qadir — has featured in just one ODI, against South Africa at Centurion in April but is rated something of being a regular with 20 wickets from 16 T20 Internationals.

The pruned squad also features Fakhar Zaman, the swashbuckling left-handed opener who has been named only among reserves for the T20 World Cup.

The New Zealanders, in the meantime, opted to cancel their scheduled practice session on Wednesday.

Squad (for first ODI): Babar Azam (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, Usman Qadir, Zahid Mahmood.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2021

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