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Zimbabwe vs Pakistan – Hasan Ali

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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



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IPL 2021 – Amid Covid concern, IPL may shift entirely to Mumbai

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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



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KKR CEO – ‘Sandeep fine; Varun a little under the weather’

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“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.



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IPL 2021 – Covid-19 effect

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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.



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