Some three and a half years ago, when Pakistan – the nethermost ranked side in the tournament – were crowned champions of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, Hasan Ali was at the centre of their miraculous run. He eclipsed every other bowler featuring in the tournament, scalping 13 preys at a barely believable average of 14.69. A miserly economy rate of 4.29 to top it off. It was as if the inspirited seamer took it upon himself to single-handedly orchestrate the Men in Green’s bowling antics and fight it out to the last breath in his soul. Fight he did and towered over all the opposing batting line-ups that confronted him. It was not only the wickets, but the wickets at crucial stages and, even more so, the wickets of crucial men. He dismissed and neutralized the likes of MS Dhoni, Ben Stokes, Eoin Morgan, Kusal Mendis, Faf du Plessis, and JP Duminy amongst others.
Hasan Ali’s bowling heroics in that successful campaign were not a revelation, though. He had been in scintillating form prior to the Champions Trophy and his purple patch in the tournament propelled him to become the fastest Pakistani bowler ever to 50 ODI wickets. At 22, he had already come of age in white-ball Cricket. His meteoric rise to the top was further contextualized when he became the No. 1 bowler in ICC ODI Ranking, some months later.
However, as the case with several promising cricketers, Hasan Ali’s slump in form was looming just around the corner. Unfortunately for him and Pakistan, it coincided with Pakistan’s dreadful run in Tests and ODIs. His slide downhill was as crushing as his meteoric elevation was uplifting. Since the beginning of the Asia Cup in 2018, Hasan Ali got his 14 wickets from 18 matches at a terribly contrasting average of 68. He faced similar deep dives in Tests and T20Is and his lack of consistency and penetrating ability began to be questioned more than ever.
It was a troubling back injury that played a big culprit’s role in Hasan Ali’s case. He last represented Pakistan in the ICC World Cup 2019 game against India where he was taken to the cleaners and was far from the Hasan Ali the Pakistan fans knew and cherished. Later that year, he suffered a back injury and since then, he has had to wring and coerce his way through different types of injuries to his back, groin and ribs.
Hasan Ali was dealt another blow when he was left out of Pakistan’s centrally contracted players list in May 2020 owing to his absence from the national side for nearly a year. Despite ticking off all fitness boxes and undergoing severe rehab processes, Hasan Ali’s back flared up again which consequently kept him away from both national commitments as well as the domestic season in Pakistan.
The 26-year-old returned to the domestic circuit in this year’s Quaid-e-Azam Trophy season when his team, Central Punjab, was down and out and placed at the bottom of the ladder. He took over the reins of the side and through individual brilliance and masterful superintendency, he lead Central Punjab to the final. His 43 wickets in 9 matches were the most for any fast bowler in this year’s edition. In fact, no pacer has been as impressive as Hasan Ali was this year since the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy underwent a major revamp process. As if it was not enough to cap off a highly impressive season, Hasan Ali lifted his side from a precarious situation in the final when they were all but pretty much buried. The right-handed bat, known for his adventurous batting, struck a magnificent, counter-attacking century in the 4th innings to keep his team in the hunt. The match, for all its ebbs and flows, finished as a tie as if the Divinity had decided that Hasan Ali’s heroics shall not end up on a losing cause. Hasan Ali was declared both Player of the Final as well as Player of the Tournament for his invaluable all-round contribution.
Hasan Ali’s exploits have helped him garner immense applause from Pakistan fans and earned him a recall to the national set-up. The ever-energized cricketer is in prime form and looks geared up to make his return to the playing XI against South Africa. He will be eyeing up similar performances in the international arena to back-up his stellar domestic run as Pakistan desperately search for a secure and reliable bowling option in the longest format.