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After heroics in QeA: Ali Usman eyes Pakistan Test call

After heroics in QeA: Ali Usman eyes Pakistan Test call

After heroics in QeA: Ali Usman eyes Pakistan Test call

Left-arm spinner finished First-Class competition as the leading wicket-taker

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Southern Punjab’s left-arm orthodox spinner Ali Usman is eager to get a call from the national team after producing the goods in the recently concluded Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2021-22 campaign.

The 28-year-old finished the competition as the leading wicket-taker after taking 43 wickets in nine matches at an average of 27.93. He was the only bowler in the tournament to take more than 40 wickets.

While talking exclusively with BOL News, Ali stated that his focus is to earn a place in the national team.

“Performing this year has been a big achievement for me,” he said. “Just like others, I am waiting to see my name in the Pakistan team after topping the bowling chart.”

The Vehari-born admitted that there is a tough competition to earn a place in the national team as a left-arm spinner in the presence of the likes of Mohammad Nawaz, Nauman Ali, Zafar Gohar and Imad Wasim.

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“Competition is a must,” he said. “I have never run away from it. My focus has always been to work hard and perform to the best of my potential.”

Early struggles

Talking about his struggle, Ali stated that after losing his parents at an early age, it took him a long time to get the limelight after started playing professional cricket more than a decade ago.

“I belong to a middle-class family and live in a village,” he said. “I was supported well by my brothers in pursuing my dream. We are four brothers and I am the second last on the list. Late club organizer Shafqat Sahab promoted me a lot. My friend and club fellow, Nadeem Abbas too, was there with me for multiple net sessions when no one was around. My professional career started in 2009 at Gaggo Cricket Club and I played U16 cricket from the Multan region the same year. My first year was extremely hard for me.”

He continued by saying: “For three years, I played at the U19 level but was not able to be selected in Pakistan’s junior team despite topping the bowling chart (15 wickets in eight games) in the departmental One-Day tournament while representing State Bank. I went back to my district but couldn’t play as my club’s vote was bogus. For almost five years, I was not able to represent my district. Finally, I got a proper chance in 2016 where I took 63 wickets in six matches during the three-day district competition.”

First-Class career

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After producing heroics in the three-day tournament, Ali started to receive offers from different departments. He opted to sign for Pakistan Airlines (PIA) and made his First-Class debut in the 2016 season of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. He managed to claim just four wickets in two games.

The left-arm spinner then represented Ghani Glass in the following two years and nearly claimed 50 wickets on each occasion.

In the 2018-19 season, he played for Multan and took 22 wickets in five matches. He also showed promise with the bat, scoring nearly 300 runs.

With the change of the domestic structure, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) introduced six associations that had two teams each, the first and the second XI. Ali was drafted in the Southern Punjab’s second XI in the 2019-20 season.

“I played three matches only as Zulfiqar Babar was preferred over me and I bagged 12 wickets,” he said.  “In the following season, I played 10 matches and led the bowling chart with 74 wickets. After playing four matches for Southern Punjab’s Second XI this year, I was promoted to the first XI where I took 43 wickets in nine games. I believe the lack of opportunities made me hungrier for success. I believed in my hard work and the result has been rewarded by the Almighty Allah.”

Main weapon

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Every bowler has a go-to delivery when there is a need to take an important wicket for the team. Ali stated that the arm ball remains his main weapon in getting the prized scalps.

“My major strength is arm-ball,” he said. “I try to deceive right-handed batters from it. I have managed to bag more than 30 wickets this season from an arm-ball.”

Praise of competitive cricket

Ever since the arrival of the new association-based structure, the PCB has received criticism where many called for the change in the model.

However, Ali, who hails from Gaggo Mandi, a small city near Multan in Vehari district, praised the competitiveness in the new structure.

“Cricket has been top quality since there are only six teams,” he said. “Every team consist of Pakistan stars and top-level First-Class cricketers. Last year, the domestic tournaments took place in Karachi and the pitches were bowling friendly but this year, the first phase was held in Punjab where the pitches majorly supported batters. There was no support for pacers and spinners. I had to plan and bowl according to the field set by the captain.”

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Future goals

Talking about his future goals, Ali stated optimism in playing the upcoming season of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) despite not being picked by any franchise in the drafting process.

“I hope I can play this year,” he said. “Multan Sultans focus on regional players and I am very confident that they would pick me in the mini-draft where each team will have to pick two more players.”

Favourite spinner

Ali, while stating that no one is his favourite bowler, revealed that he tries to learn the art of spin from the likes former left-arm spinners Daniel Vettori and Rangana Herath.

“I have no favourite bowler to be honest,” he said. “But I closely watch my type of bowlers. New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori, Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath and Pakistan’s Zulfiqar Babar are among them. I watch their videos closely and try to learn from that.”

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