Bruised by injuries and form issues, the fast bowler has taken the tough route back to the top
Recalling his “difficult journey” back to the Pakistan side, having fought through injuries and form issues, Hasan Ali has underlined the importance of the first-class grind for youngsters in their quest to play top-flight cricket.
Ali missed a major chunk of international cricket between 2019 and 2020 due to multiple injuries ranging from back strain to broken ribs. But he played a key role in Central Punjab’s run to the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final. In all, he played nine games, with the best performance reserved for the final, where he made a century and picked up a five-for.
He was named Player of the Series for his 43 wickets at an average of 20.06. That performance put him back on the national radar and he is back leading Pakistan to victories, most recently in the first Test against Zimbabwe in Harare.
“It’s very simple: if anyone intends to play long for Pakistan and is free, he should play first-class cricket,” Hasan said after the innings and 116-run victory on Saturday. “I made my international debut in 2016 and since then until last year I didn’t get a chance to play the entire first-class season.
“I had one aim and that was to make a comeback so that the world will remember [me].”
Hasan Ali on what kept him going
“If you play the full long season, it will certainly help you a lot in many ways. You get to bowl longer spells with the new and old ball. It lifts your skillsets. The long spells may tire you, but eventually it prepares you for international cricket by enhancing your temperament and making you tough.
“I know everyone has their own thoughts about cricket. Some like to play the shorter formats but for me, I love to play Test cricket. It’s an interesting format and it actually tests your temperament and patience in every possible way. I always wanted to wear a Test cap and it is like a dream that comes true for me that I am representing Pakistan in this format and staying relevant with my performances.”
Since his return after over two years, he’s been in roaring form. He picked a match-winning ten-for against South Africa in Rawalpindi; it helped Pakistan clinch their first Test series win over South Africa since 2003. He picked up 4 for 18 to help Pakistan beat Zimbabwe in the T20I decider last month. In his most recent Test outing in Harare, he finished with a nine-for.
This upswing was far from his mind when he went into oblivion two years ago, after his body nearly ditched him. He fought through injuries in his groin, back and ribs. He lost his PCB central contract, even though the PCB continue to pay him a monthly retainer from the cricketers’ welfare fund, apart from also footing his medical bills. There were talks of surgery in Australia, but Ali eventually settled for several video sessions that helped him through his rehabilitation during the pandemic last year.
“There was a phase when I lost nearly everything,” Ali said looking back on the tough phase. “It was a difficult journey. I was out of cricket for nearly two years, fighting with multiple injuries but came back after getting fitter. It was a frustrating time and I used to cry. But one thing I never forgot was to try and work hard. Because that was the only thing I had in my hands.
“I had one aim and that was to make a comeback so that the world will remember [me]. I had a lot to prove on my fitness and performances for my comeback. I did well and carried on the same performance in international cricket. It was the hard work that paid off.”
Waqar Younis, who took over the charge as bowling coach in 2019, was one of the mentors who stood by him during the tough times. “He has this never-give-up attitude that drives him,” Waqar said of Ali.”He is mentally a strong character, otherwise what he had been through anyone could have collapsed.
“With such injuries, only a strong-minded cricketer can make a comeback. In my years I too had back injuries and people thought I was done. The same thing happened with Hassan. These negative things disheartened [me] at times but when you have the attitude you can always come back. His commitment and attitude made a massive difference.”
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent
IPL 2021 – Amid Covid concern, IPL may shift entirely to Mumbai
BCCI is believed to be working on a plan that will minimize risks, especially in travel
As Covid-19 cases emerge within the IPL, ESPNcricinfo understands the BCCI is looking at minimising risks and moving the rest of the tournament to Mumbai. If the plan is executed, the IPL could be shifted to Mumbai as early as this weekend.
This will necessitate a rejigged tournament schedule, with multiple double headers. There is also a likelihood of the IPL final being moved from May 30 to early June.
The biggest challenge for the BCCI in making its Mumbai plan work is to create the IPL bubble, which mainly entails finding hotels for the eight teams to be housed in and preparing the stadia. Luckily, in terms of match fitness, all the three key grounds in Mumbai – Wankhede, DY Patil and Brabourne – were utilised during the first leg of the IPL in April.
While the Wankhede hosted 10 IPL matches, the other two grounds, and the Mumbai Cricket Association’s ground in the Bandra-Kurla Complex, were used by various teams for training purposes.
It is understood that the BCCI team made calls on Monday to various big hotels in Mumbai to verify if they were capable of satisfying the various SOPs needed to create a team bubble. No BCCI and IPL official was available for a comment. Franchises, too, have not heard of the plan formally, but some say they will not be surprised if the Mumbai plan was acted on.
It would mean ditching the two-venue caravan model and reverting to the BCCI’s original plan, when it was working out the IPL schedule, of having Mumbai as the hub. The schedule eventually released, on March 7, had six venues – Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai. Chennai and Mumbai hosted the first leg while the second leg is being played currently in Ahmedabad and Delhi.
The IPL’s next stage is meant to be in Bengaluru and Kolkata, from next week. However, with India being enveloped by a second wave of the pandemic and the first cases emerging of the IPL bubble being breached, franchises, players and even some within the BCCI remain concerned about the pitfalls involved in travelling.
When the IPL began, Mumbai was the worst-affected metro in India, with almost 10,000 new cases every day. It is now acknowledged that a corner has been turned in this respect – Monday’s case count was 2,662, the lowest daily tally since March 17. It was a steep drop from a month ago – 11,163 covid-19 cases on April 4, the highest-ever number in the pandemic.
The impact on the WTC final
If the IPL is stretched beyond May 30, it is bound to potentially have an impact on the World Test Championship final, between India and New Zealand in Southampton from June 18-22. With the UK recently blocking travel from India, the ICC, the WTC host, is currently negotiating quarantine norms and exemptions with the British government for the members of both teams who are currently playing in the IPL.
One BCCI official, though, pointed out that moving the IPL to Mumbai could offer the advantage of the Indian and New Zealand players flying direct to England instead of the potential two-leg journey if the IPL final were to be played in Ahmedabad, as scheduled.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
KKR CEO – ‘Sandeep fine; Varun a little under the weather’
“We have asked everybody in the bubble to quarantine, so they are isolated in their rooms,” says CEO Venky Mysore
Varun Chakravarthy, the mystery spinner, is “still a little under the weather”, while seam bowler Sandeep Warrier is “doing fine and doesn’t have any symptoms, Venky Mysore, the Kolkata Knight Riders CEO, has said. Both players tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday – the results of which came to light earlier in the day – resulting in the team’s fixture against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Ahmedabad being postponed to a later date.
“Difficult times, but I’m happy to report that both Varun and Sandeep are doing well,” Mysore told Star Sports. “We have taken all the precautions that are necessary and have been advised by the medical teams of IPL and KKR and also getting appropriate advice from outside on what the right thing to do is. Sandeep, in particular, is doing fine. No temperature, no other symptoms, and he is feeling good. Varun is still a little under the weather, but better than yesterday and both of them are in good spirits.”
Throwing light on the measures taken in the aftermath of the two positive cases in the camp, Mysore said the franchise has asked the entire contingent – players, support staff, management, hotel staff and catering staff – to mandatorily quarantine in their rooms for the next five days. Warrier has been isolated on a different floor of the team hotel, which has a separate air-conditioning duct, away from the rest of the squad.
“I think everyone has been very proactive,” Mysore aid. “We found out approximately 24 hours ago about Varun testing positive, so the immediate steps we took was to isolate him, and then later on in the night when we got test results which also involved Sandeep, we put them on a different floor with a different air conditioning ducts system to make sure others are appropriately protected. We have asked everybody in the bubble (players, support staff, management, hotel staff and service staff) to quarantine, so they are isolated in their rooms. The food delivery is on a knock and drop basis, which everyone has gotten used to by now.”
Knight Riders are scheduled to play next on May 8 against Delhi Capitals. This gives them little less than two days after coming out of quarantine to prepare for the next game. Mysore is hopeful the test results on May 6 will allow them at least a training session if not two before that fixture.
“The team doctor was on the call as well, and his assessment is that if everything’s goes well, the plan that we have put in place, we should be able to get the results sometime later in the day on the 6th of May,” Mysore explained. “Which means that potentially we could even get out that evening for a practice subject to what the coaches want to do and then get ready for 7th and 8th depending on when the rescheduled games would potentially take place.”
Knight Riders are currently placed in the bottom half of the table, with two wins in seven matches. Mysore compared their current position to their standing at the halfway mark during their championship-winning run in 2014 and is optimistic of them repeating that again.
“I think the way we are in the points table and the wins and losses certainly belies the potential of this team,” he said. “But you know, you always look for positives, and there were a couple of games that should have gone our way but which didn’t. But if you reflect back to our last championship (in 2014). I don’t know if it is a coincidence or it is a good omen or what. Exactly after seven games, we had the same record (two wins and five losses) and we went on to win the championship.
“So there is plenty of cricket to be played, but I think the most important thing right now is the health and safety of all the concerned. I think if we get past this challenge that has come our way, we will do everything; that’s how we are prioritising it. First and foremost, if we are able to get past this, I think everybody will take the positives and reflect back on what we have done in the past and hopefully, you know, this would be an interesting inflection point in our campaign. So looking forward to that, but big thanks to all our supporters standing by us, and we are really privileged to have that kind of support.”
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
IPL 2021 – Covid-19 effect
On Monday, two KKR players and three members of the CSK camp – including L Balaji – tested positive
The fallout from the Covid-19 cases – confirmed and suspected – within the IPL bubble was felt through the day on Monday. The Delhi Capitals, the last team to play against the Kolkata Knight Riders – two of their players have tested positive – have been asked to isolate themselves at their hotel in Ahmedabad. In Delhi, neither the Mumbai Indians nor the Sunrisers Hyderabad, who are scheduled to play each other on Tuesday, trained at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground after suspected positive cases among the ground staff.
Monday started with the IPL confirming that the Knight Riders’ Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier had tested positive in Ahmedabad, and cancelled their match against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, scheduled for Monday. Within hours, in Delhi, the Chennai Super Kings had reported three positive cases including that of Laxmipathy Balaji, who was in the dugout during Saturday’s match against the Mumbai Indians.
Delhi, currently the most severely affected city in India, has already hosted four out of its eight scheduled matches. But there is concern among the franchises after reports emerged that some of the groundstaff at the Kotla had tested positive for Covid-19.
Rohan Jaitley, the president at the Delhi & Districts Cricket Association, which manages the Kolta, said that none of the groundstaff that were present for the two matches over the weekend were among those who had tested positive.
“There’s no one who is on duty at the matches who has tested positive,” Jaitley told ESPNcricinfo on Monday. “Since the numbers (in Delhi) peaked we had put them (groundstaff) in-house in a bubble and they were staying at the stadium. Since it is a taxing job, they get drained out. So we have groundstaff that are off-site tested and quarantined. After every few matches we rotate them.”
It is understood that at least two members of the groundstaff that were not at the ground over the weekend had tested positive and had been placed in quarantine.
Jaitley said that the testing had been done as per the standard operating procedures put in place by the IPL and he was confident Tuesday evening’s match would be held on schedule.
In Ahmedabad, while the entire Knight Riders’ contingent is now in five-day quarantine, the Capitals put on hold all activity on Monday afternoon after they were asked to isolate in their hotel rooms. There is no clarity yet on whether the squad can train on Tuesday, their first day back at practice after Sunday’s match. Their next match, ironically, is again against the Knight Riders, in Ahmedabad on May 8.
It is understood that the Capitals also moved their regular testing, scheduled originally for Tuesday, to Monday. The IPL had, from the start of the tournament’s second leg played in Ahmedabad and Delhi, asked teams to get tested every two days. Teams have conducted these tests on non-match days and the Capitals underwent testing on May 1 before today.
The reason behind the franchise taking such a step is believed to be because of the faster rate of transmission in India, which is currently recording close to 400,000 new cases every day. All six venues shortlisted by the BCCI to conduct the IPL – Ahmedabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata – have been among the worst-affected cities in the past month.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
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