Knees sunk deep into the damp Rawalpindi turf, arms aloft, and glimmering eyes fixated on the pale blue skies. The crowd around him erupts in joy and goes ear-shattering berserk. And why won’t they? After four days of consistent drizzle, fading light, and what not, Abid Ali, the wrongfully-thought forlorn son of the soil, set Pindi’s National Stadium ablaze with his blistering strokeplay to mark the return of Test Cricket to Pakistan’s deserted grounds. Watching him come good after decade-long battles of landing into this much-deserved spot was more gratifying than eye-catching.

The 32-year old opening batsman who hails from Lahore took his chance and emblazoned his name into the history books, forever. With this ton in Rawalpindi, he became the first cricketer ever to notch up centuries on both Test and ODI debuts. Earlier in 2019, in a bilateral series against the Aussies, Abid kicked off his one-day international career by conjuring a splendid ton. 

A slightly late bloomer as per the subcontinental cricketing norms, Abid has been around the domestic circuit for an eternity. Very few of the hard-toiling tales at the first-class level of Pakistan Cricket elevate to the worth they deserve with progressing age being an obvious aspect that is frowned upon and often shunned in this part of the world. 

Abid commenced his professional career in the sport just about the time international Cricket left Pakistan for good, depriving a whole generation of players the nurture, nourishment, and exposure they needed to excel and blossom. He was continuously overlooked by regional teams in the former phase of his career and had to keep moving places to find a stable spot. 

In a first-class career that spans nearly twelve years and 106 matches, Abid has compiled 7,116 runs in total. What has kept him in contention for the national squad, though, is his staggering average of just over 57 in the last three domestic seasons. Speaking of Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, he commenced this year’s revamped edition of the tournament with a cracking double hundred, lidded with dominance and class.

Despite scoring a plethora of runs over several seasons, Abid has been in and out of the reckoning for the national team. Numerous reasons have been cited on his extended snubs even after such a fairytale genesis of his international career. On occasions, he is benched owing to the competition at the top of the order with the likes of Imam-ul-Haq and Shan Masood being there and thereabouts. Abid was also sidelined from Pakistan’s World Cup campaign last year as the Greenshirts decided to persist with the flailing duo of Fakhar Zaman and Imam.

Natural prowess and hefty domestic performances to back it up don’t necessarily guarantee a cricketer to become a world-beating entity on the global stage. Certainly not in Pakistan where whole eras of Cricket can be fitted into the ever-widening gulf that divides the first-class circuit with its international counterpart. However, when a player stacks up a truckload of impressive displays, the limelight shall be slanted a bit. 

Part and parcel of Abid’s shimmering success have been his undeterred perseverance and invariable hard work despite knowing the strenuous obstacles that lay ahead of him, as he himself accepts: "The domestic cricket I've played has served me well, and it was all for this moment," he said. "Wherever I've gone, whichever region or department I played for gave me the confidence to play well today. I had been with the team and kept my fitness level high and keep on working on my skills set with small plans. I knew someday I will get a chance and I was always ready for it.”

Abid’s uncomplicated approach towards his batsmanship and an orthodox technique to top it up have been highly commended by former players and sporting analysts, alike. His batting style oozes traditional flamboyance and is far more fluent than haphazard. In this day and age of T20 madness, the not-so-bravado Abid does not boast an all-guns-and-glory kind of an aura. He personifies elegance and simplicity through his pleasing off-drives, late dabs and glides, sumptuous twirls off the pads and clever maneuvering of the gaps. 

He is ominously tranquil and level-headed at the crease with a rock-solid, compact defense. Abid gives the look of those old-fashioned cricketers who look to anchor the innings right from ball one, but he has shown that he has it in him to up the ante and score at a fair clip, given the necessity. Abid is not the heartbeat or the darling of a nation that glamorizes sporting sexiness more than it clamors for quality.

One thing that Abid would know for sure is it doesn’t take much for this public applause to convert into hefty criticism. He would know that opportunities like these barely show up in Pakistan’s set up and there would be many aspiring cricketers out there ruing their not-so-good luck and hopelessly wishing that their careers could take bright bends like Abid’s. The right-handed bat wholeheartedly agrees:

"I know there is a competition around me but it has increased a lot recently but all I know is that I have to keep on performing to stay relevant," Abid said. "I need to raise my game and with every chance I have to perform well,” said Abid in an interview after his twin tons in Rawalpindi and Karachi. 

Abid has, indeed, set the tune for himself. All he needs to do now is orchestrate himself masterfully so he remains synced in with the platform that he has set up from where he can notch it up and thrive towards cricketing glory. If Abid can emulate his own performances against Sri Lanka, Pakistan would end up resolving a long-lasting issue at the top of the order, for heaps of years to come.