KARACHI: Pacer Hasan Ali would like to play against a full-strength Australian side when they visit Pakistan for a for a three-match Test and One-day International series as well as a solitary T20 International next month.
With the first Test set to be played from March 3 in Karachi, there has been talk about some Australian players willing to opt out of the tour as the side nears their first visit to Pakistan after 1998.
Australia skipper Pat Cummins, however, said most of the players, if not all, are expected to feature in the tour, in which the the Test series will be played as a part of the ICC Test Championship.
Even with crucial points at stake, Hasan said he did not want to compete against a Australian side any less than the best.
“I’d prefer their [Australia’s] full strength side to visit so that we also can gauge our strengths and weaknesses in our home conditions,” the 27-year-old told Dawn at a launch ceremony of a perfume here on Saturday. “So far, I think, the full team is coming, but we can’t say much about it right now.”
Lauding the Pakistan Cricket Board’s efforts in bringing back full-time international cricket to the country after a tough decade, Hasan said he is looking forward to the much-awaited series.
“It always makes me happy whenever cricket comes back to Pakistan and PCB is making commendable efforts for it,” he said. “If this kept up then hopefully Pakistan will play full-fledged cricket at home and I am looking forward to playing against Australia.”
There aren’t many reasons why Hasan wouldn’t look forward to an opportunity like that with the form he has been in since returning from injury in April last year.
After being in oblivion for two years since 2019 due to numerous injury issues, Hasan broke back into the international cricket scene after emerging as the best player of the 2020-21 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.
He helped Pakistan win a Test series against South Africa for the first time after 2003, bagging 16 wickets in two Tests which included a five-wicket haul and a 10-wicket haul.
He didn’t look back since then and ended 2021 as Pakistan’s second highest wicket-taker in the longest format with 41 scalps.
Considered as a T20 specialist early in his career, Hasan was named by the PCB as the Test Cricketer of The Year in an awards ceremony last week.
“I’ve liked Test cricket since day one and I don’t feel good when someone labels me as a T20 or one-day player only,” said the Gujranwala-born cricketer. “I’ve been performing in all three formats. But it’s an honour for me to be named as the Test Cricketer of the Year.
“I play the format with a lot of happiness and my performance speaks for itself. It’s only the longer format that can make you a proper player. It tests your patience, temperament and fitness.”
Hasan’s run, since coming back from injury, was not free of problems.
In Pakistan’s barnstorming run at the T20 World Cup last year which ended with a semi-final loss to eventual champions Australia, the fast-bowler not only struggled to take wickets but also bled runs. He managed only five wickets in six outings averaging 41.40.
To make matters worse, he dropped Australia’s Matthew Wade’s catch in the semi-final with the wicket-keeper/batter going on to win the match for his team.
Despite not being in his best form, Hasan was not dropped throughout the T20 World Cup and Pakistan captain Babar Azam repeatedly backed him.
Hasan responded to Babar’s trust in him by being one of Pakistan’s top performers in their tour to Bangladesh right after the T20 World Cup. In his only outing in the three-match T20I series, Hasan was named the man-of-the match, while in the two Tests, he bagged nine wickets at 15.55.
“My performance is in front of everyone. I was Pakistan’s highest wicket taker in T20s, was second in Tests and also got a five-wicket haul in one-day cricket,” said Hasan.
“Ups and downs in performance are inevitable and one series can’t decide a player’s career.
“But the way Babar has backed me — he knows that I can fight for him and win matches for him — this is the change of culture we needed and I think this has been going on since a while now.”
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2022