The Pakistan Super League, since its inception, has fast-tracked the careers of many cricketers and propelled them to international stardom.
Some of the exciting talents immediately came into the limelight after performing in Pakistan Super League editions and then made their international debuts in no time.
Fast bowler Hassan Ali is one of them.
Hassan was picked as an emerging cricketer by Peshawar Zalmi in the inaugural edition of the PSL and months later, he made his international debut for Pakistan.
“Playing PSL before my debut was like having a taste of international cricket before playing international cricket,” Hassan told Geo News in an exclusive interview on Friday.
“This league is a very good platform and has played an important part in my career. I played in front of 20,000 people during the PSL, which boosted my confidence ahead of my international debut and when I was playing my first international match, I was already confident enough to tackle the pressure,” he said, adding that the best thing about the PSL is the mandatory inclusion of emerging player in every final XI.
Hassan made his international debut during Pakistan’s tour to Ireland and England in 2016. Next year, the fast bowler became the leading wicket-taker of the ICC Champions Trophy that Pakistan won after defeating India in the final.
Hassan also got two Player of the Match awards in the tournament.
Champions Trophy win still gives me goosebumps, says Hassan
Coincidently, it was also the fourth anniversary of Pakistan’s Champions Trophy win on Friday and the fast bowler recalled some of the memories of the tournament.
“It still gives me goosebumps,” he said.
“It was very special for me, unforgettable. We didn’t get the start that we wanted and were beaten by India in the opening match,” he recalled. “We were ranked 8th and were under criticism from all quarters but we made a comeback and defeated South Africa, Sri Lanka, England and then India to win the final. It was very special,” Hasan said.
Recalling his conversation with former Pakistan captain Sarfaraz a night before the final, the fast bowler said he still remembers that before the final “Saffy bhai” had told everyone that we are going to wear those white-blazers tomorrow, referring to the blazers that are given to the winners of the Champions Trophy.
Hassan, who was also the best bowler of the tournament, added that he’s proud that his performances contributed to the team’s success in the Champions Trophy.
“It was my first ICC event and I wanted to make an impact. I had worked hard and achieved success. It was an honour for me to receive awards then from the likes of Saurav Ganguly and Steve Waugh,” the Pakistani fast bowler said.
He has now set his eyes on repeating the same show in his next ICC tournament, which is the ICC T20 World Cup.
“My aim in the T20 World Cup is to contribute to the team’s success and do everything that could help my team win,” he said. “I will try my best to help Pakistan win another ICC tournament with my performance,” he said.
‘I used to cry’
The fast bowler was then becoming an automatic choice in the squad and had been performing consistently before losing form in 2019. He was unable to perform well during the World Cup and to make matters worse, after that, Hassan got unfit.
It kept him out of cricket for more than a year.
The injury, that could have possibly ended his career, was a scary one. It was identified as an intervertebral disc protrusion. The prolonged rehabilitation period caused Hassan lose his central contract and he gradually went away from focus.
“It was a very difficult time for me, I used to cry as I was away from the game I loved,” he said. “I lost my central contract, I had lost everything I had because of cricket. It was painful for me but my wife and my brother motivated me throughout,” he added.
“I was also eager to make a comeback and not to give up, I wanted to regain my place and my pride and I did all I could to regain my fitness,” he said.
“One thing I realised is that hard work always pays off. I did all the hard work and it paid me, and hence, I made my dream comeback,” Hassan said.
Hassan made a comeback in Quaid e Azam Trophy last season and since then, he hasn’t looked back. The fast bowler performed well and started taking wickets consistently for his national and domestic teams.
But, the fear of getting injured is still present in Hassan’s mind and he’s trying his best to avoid such a situation again.
“I have to keep working hard on my fitness. I know what I need to do to keep myself fit and to stop the injury from returning,” he said.
“I try to take wickets in every game I play because I realize that it is important to take wickets in the middle overs and that’s what I try to do,” the fast bowler said about his performance since his comeback.
Hassan is currently with Islamabad United, after moving from Peshawar Zalmi ahead of PSL 2021 and has set his eyes on achieving team and individual goals.
“There’s a good competition in the PSL among fast bowlers, which is a good sign,” he said.
Shahanawaz and Wahab Riaz are leading with 14 wickets apiece, I have taken 12 wickets and so has Shaheen Shah Afridi. And like everyone else, I am also aiming to become the leading wicket-taker of the tournament. Let’s see who gets the trophy,” Hasan said.
“The team atmosphere is very good. We are gelled well with the current combination and are confident that Islamabad United will be lifting the PSL trophy for the third time,” he concluded.