Pakistan's Hasan Ali: Whatever the struggle, continue the climb...
There’s an adage that goes, “Whatever the struggle, continue the climb. It may be only one step to the summit..."
Pakistan cricket defines struggle; a side infamously known for persistently tussling with consistency. Stability is a thing unknown to Shaheens. Yet, amongst Pakistan’s plethora of erratic, unpredictable athletes, the story of Hasan Ali sticks out strongly.
Beginning his career for the national side in 2016, a few things were notable right from the start. He couldn’t evoke instant attention from the media like Amir. He wasn’t as graceful with the ball as Wasim or Waqar, nor was he quipped with the pace and malevolent attitude of Shoaib. It was a period in which the national side was undergoing a revamp anyways, with many veterans exiting especially from the limited over format. Hence, it was going to be arduous for any debutant, but the coherent struggle didn’t rattle this newcomer’s will.
Despite making a strong mark early on in his career, no one could predict the impact he would have in his first major event, the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy. His bowling vigour and vim had him declared “The man of the tournament”, with 13 wickets in just 5 games. His role not only scripted his country’s fairy-tale comeback, but it also paved way to a trumping victory over arch-rivals India in the final at Lord’s.
Hasan Ali had emerged as a hero, with millions of Pakistani fans recording themselves mimicking his explosive “generator” celebration and sharing it online. His contagious energy and charisma won hearts everywhere. Only 4 months later, he became the fastest Pakistani to bag 50 ODI wickets. In a span of 15 months, Hasan “mounted the summit”, a feat few could achieve in their career let alone in a little over a year. His purple patch continued throughout 2018. Moreover, he also began to show promise with the bat.
But come 2019, Hasan’s fate took a downturn and quite a dreadful one at that. It was the beginning of the first real “bump” in his otherwise smooth road to success. He managed a meagre 7 scalps in the next 12 ODIs. His 84 runs conceding spell in a World Cup fixture against India had him dropped from the playing XI, in what hinted at being perhaps the final chapter of what had been a dreary white-ball season for him. But the worst was yet to come.
If the slump in performance was not enough, he sustained a back injury during a workout session right before Sri Lanka’s 2019 tour of Pakistan, the first in over a decade. Whilst most national boards had evolved in the medical and fitness department, PCB had lagged. Evidence of this truth lay in the fact that many burgeoning Pakistani players struggled persistently after injury. This indeed was nothing short of a nightmare for Hasan.
After completing a gruelling seven-week rehabilitation period, he suffered another blow: multiple stress fractures in his ribs. Soon, his early explosiveness and popularity amongst fans began to diminish. Many analysts, including myself, believed it was his end. Hasan himself was quoted saying “I cannot forget the period of depression that came my way after the  World Cup”.
The Good Luck Charm
Even though his sojourn with struggle seemed to become full-time, Hasan set out a goal, one that kept his passion alive and beckoned him to sport the national colours once again. In his own words, “It was to make a comeback so that the world will remember me”.
In the running cricketing calendar year, Hasan has displayed one of the most formidable comebacks in contemporary cricket. Since the home series against South Africa in February, Hasan has set out on a restless pursuit for excellence. His hostility with the red ball, along with his unsatiable lust for wickets; 40 overall, has made him Pakistan’s leading wicket taker so far for 2021. His heroics in Rawalpindi not only earned the hosts their first ever test victory over the Proteas in 18 years, but his red ball magic in April, which ripped through Zimbabwe’s batting line-up, permitted Pakistan to a 2-0 series whitewash.
To top it all, Hasan Ali has managed to rejuvenate his white-ball sheen, earning his side13 wickets in just 6 T20I. Every test in 2021 in which he’s made it to the playing XI has resulted in a triumph for “Team Green”. With his statistical prowess and the success, he’s harboured for Pakistan, a pressing question in the mind of most experts of the game is whether Hasan Ali will continue to be the “Good-luck charm” for the “Men-in-Green” in their upcoming tours against England and West Indies, could he ‘mount the summit’ once more?
This article has been written by Fasih Taqvi, currently an A level student at Froebels International School, Islamabad, Pakistan.