Haider Ali

Consistent Haider Ali rewarded with maiden national team call-up | England vs Pakistan

140

Pakistan have a long history of fast-tracking talented teenage cricketers to the international level and they have done that again with the 19-year-old Haider Ali. They keep producing some fine talents at the teenage level. Not to say that other countries don’t but for some reason, we find these prodigies from Pakistan playing international cricket well before most of the others.

Also Read: Pakistan Cricket Board announce squad for England tour

After three teenage fast bowlers (Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah and Muhammad Musa), here is a batting talent that’s come to the fore. Haider Ali is one of the 29 men (combined Test and T20I squad) who have been picked for the upcoming tour of England which comprises of three Tests and as many T20Is.

He’s had a magnificent run in almost all forms of domestic cricket. Be it the Under-19s, List ‘A’ cricket, first-class cricket or even the Pakistan Super League (PSL), the 19-year-old has stepped up and got runs. He’s earned his place and has broken the selection door down pretty early. Ali has scored runs in almost every tournament that he’s played in the last 12 months or so.

He didn’t have the best of starts to his T20 career, though. Ali played for Rawalpindi in the National T20 Cup in December 2018. But all he could make was 62 runs at an average of 12.40 and a strike-rate of 119.23 with a best of 28.

However, the tide soon turned in his favour and right from the time he flew to South Africa as a part of the Pakistan Under-19 side, he started getting the runs. On that tour, nobody scored more runs than him. The right-handed top-order batter amassed 477 runs in eight games, averaging 59.62 with a strike-rate of 107.19. Moreover, only two batsmen from either side got a ton and he was the only player to score two.

Soon after that, Ali made his first-class debut and he had a very good debut season playing for the Northern. In the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, the youngster plundered 645 runs from seven games. He averaged nearly 50 and scored two tons (to go along with three half-centuries), including one in the final.

Also Read: Mohammad Amir, Haris Sohail pull out of England tour

The Attock-born batsman was later picked for the ACC Emerging Teams Cup and he ended up as Pakistan’s second-best batsman. He scored 218 runs which included a ton – 118, the second-highest individual score in the tournament. Then came the 2020 Under-19 World Cup. He did blow a little hot and cold but came up with a nice-looking 56 in the semi-final against India. He ended the tournament with 107 runs, third-most for Pakistan Under-19.

Yes, the Under-19 World Cup wasn’t the best for him. But he turned that disappointment into results when he started scoring runs consistently in the 2020 season of the PSL. He had just one fifty-plus score but even that came when his side Peshawar Zalmi were in trouble. Ali made 69 which came when he walked out to bat with the score reading 24/3 in the fourth over. There were a couple of single-figure scores but Ali was consistent right throughout the tournament.

He accumulated 239 runs which is the joint-second-most for his side. The 19-year-old had an average of 29.87, again the second-best for the Zalmi and was striking at 158.27 which is the best for any Peshawar Zalmi player in the 2020 season who played at least five games.

And it’s not that he’s stagnated and scored most of his runs at one position. Ali has shown his versatility and flexibility. For the most part of the domestic season, he opened the batting, including the Under-19 World Cup. However, in the PSL, with Kamran Akmal, Tom Banton, Liam Livingstone present in the line-up, he was more than willing to bat anywhere in the line-up. He batted at 3, 4 and 5 and adapted pretty well to most situations.

Hence, there’s no doubt that Ali has broken the selection door with the weight of his performances. In fact, the way Ali played in the last year or so has earned him a PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) contract as well. He was one of the three players who received an Emerging players contract.

Also, Haider Ali is the first player from the Under-19 World Cup batch of 2020 to break into the international scene. Former West Indies cricketer and current commentator Ian Bishop spoke highly of Ali and lauded the young lad’s temperament as well. In fact, Bishop even picked him in one of his three stars to watch out for the future (while doing a Stump Mic podcast).

However, it’ll be interesting to see if the youngster can break into the XI straightaway. He will be itching and raring to go and get an opportunity. Pakistan seem to have fairly set their line-ups in both the Test and T20I formats. There might just be a couple of spots open here and there but the question will be where is Ali in the pecking order.

Keeping all of that aside, this is a just reward for him and he has performances to back it up. Haider Ali has received praise from quite a few former players and he looks set for the big stage.