Dubai: Three years ago, a submissive and scared Hasan Ali was thrown in the deep against an inquisitive group of journalists after he played his first game in the Pakistan Super League in Dubai.
Three years, on a confident and energetic Hasan was all smile and no fear, after he took a HBL PSL best of four for 15 against Lahore Qalandars on Sunday, one of his wickets included former South Africa great AB de Villiers.
That Hasan’s feat wrecked Lahore to 78 all out as Peshawar achieved an easy seven-wicket win at the same where Hasan played his initial matches in the HBL PSL 2016
Hasan acknowledged his journey from a scary-looking greenhorn to an ever-green mature paceman, who has made a name for himself at international level.
“Yes, I am proud to be the first product of the PSL,” acknowledged Hasan. “This was the same room when I came for the first press conference. I was frightened and nervous, but from 2016 to 2019, my journey has been great and I have earned respect and fame.
“So it’s nice to be sitting here as a mature player for Pakistan. This has been a reward for my hard work and of the confidence the PCB, the team management of Peshawar and Pakistan had reposed in me.”
Hasan managed just two wickets in three matches in 2016, but Peshawar’s head coach Mohammad Akram and the then captain Shahid Afridi liked the intensity and hunger for wickets in Hasan’s eyes.
Akram admitted Hasan impressed him with his passion for the game.
“I saw intensity and hunger in Hasan’s eyes,” remembers Akram. “We nurtured him and he has worked really hard to progress this far.”
Before that first PSL, very few people had known Hasan. He first played cricket in his native town of Ladhay Wala Wraich, near Gujranwala, an area famous for producing wrestlers and kabaddi players.
Hasan’s elder brother Ataur Rehman noticed his talent at an early age and organised a gym and a pitch in the backyard of their family home.
“My elder brother was the greatest influence on my career and after a few first-class seasons, I was picked by the Peshawar franchise for the first edition of the HBL PSL,” recalls Hasan.
“I am proud that I am called a product of the HBL PSL. Shadab and Faheem were also groomed in the HBL PSL and this is an ideal platform for the youngsters in the future as well.”
So, how was he picked in the first place?
“I was watching the draft with my brother. I was the last player picked in the emerging category and I was watching it with a bated breath. When my name was announced, I hugged my brother and we were on cloud nine,” recalls Hasan.
In 2013, Hasan made his first-class debut for Sialkot against Lahore and took five wickets and scored 27 runs in his team’s innings win over a formidable opponent.
But his progress started after the HBL PSL.
Hasan made his ODI debut against Ireland in August in 2016 and never looked back. He was the leading wicket-taker in 2017 and rose to new heights with his 13 wickets in Pakistan’s ICC Champions Trophy triumph, when Pakistan beat arch-rivals India in the final at The Oval.
He became the joint-third fastest bowler to claim 50 ODI wickets with the mark achieved in 23 matches, the same number as Australian icon Dennis Lillee and four games fewer than legendary Pakistan fast bowler Waqar Younis.
“HBL PSL helped me a lot in grooming as a player. When I played my first international game, I had no pressure because I had already played against top players of the world in the HBL PSL,” admits Hasan.
Hasan feels playing all three formats for Pakistan is a great honour.
“Its an honour to play for Pakistan in all three formats, and I am 24, so this is the right time to play for Pakistan. I am fit and want to play as much cricket for Pakistan as possible,” said Hasan.
Of his four wickets against Lahore the best was of AB.
“For a bowler, if you get one wicket or five wickets, all are good but against Lahore, my favourite wicket was AB de Villiers and that was the best moment for me.”
Hasan said his message to the youngsters is to work hard and hard, and use the HBL PSL as a “stepping stone.”
“I rose from the PSL, so this is the right platform. My advice to all the young players would be to make use of this platform and make your way to the top. They can take my example.”