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The rise and rise of Hassan Ali

CARDIFF: His energy levels are notable, his wicket-taking traits unmatched and his celebration is unique. Hasan Ali has made his mark at international level and is gaining height with every match.

The 23-year-old is now the highest wicket-taker in the Champions Trophy 2017 and can finish as the best as Pakistan has reached the final, with a few more scalps waiting for him.

The event started on a wrong note for the lithe medium pacer as he dropped a catch off Yuvraj Singh who then castigated Pakistan bowling which formed a 124-run drubbing by India in the opening game.

But as Pakistan bounced back, Hassan became the reason. He dismissed Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy and Wayne Parnell — the last two in one over – to finish with figures of 3-24 in eight overs.

That helped Pakistan win on Duckworth-Lewis formula.

Next game was another must-win for Pakistan, a virtual quarter-final against Sri Lanka.

Hassan was again instrumental in helping Pakistan wrap up Sri Lanka for 236 with figures of 3-43. Pakistan won by three wickets.

Come the semi-final and everyone was predicting another 300-plus total for hosts and title favorites England. But in the absence of unfit Mohammad Amir, Hassan led the attack with figures of 3-35 in his ten overs – getting Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes in a spell of excellent variation and guile.

This sums up Hassan’s rise at the international level.

Hassan was first spotted at the first edition of Pakistan Super League, courtesy former Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Akram who had predicted a bright future for Hassan Ali then.

“Hassan has a bright future,” said Akram after the first Pakistan Super League in 2015.

“He has variation and the much needed hunger to take wickets. I am sure he will progress by leaps and bound.”

Three things I liked about Hassan are 1. His wrist position and seem presentation. 2 His Hunger to do well means he is not shy of hard work.He is not scared to try different things and 3. He is a good listener and quick learner. When made him play in first PSL semi final, my words were this is not your destination you need to go much higher because the spark in his eyes was telling me everything,” said Akram.

Hassan lived up to his mentor’s prediction.

Akram’s support was not the only thing Hassan was blessed with.

He received first support at home, in a tiny town of Ludhay Wala, close to Gujranwala. His elder brother Ataur Rehman, a district-level batsman himself, realized the potential in Hassan. At a very young age Hassan was given the needed facilities and the support to take up cricket.

“Hassan had a passion for cricket and since he was five years old, always used to accompany me to the nearby stadiums when I went to practice,” Rehman said.

“Then, after a few years, when he was 10 years old, he started to bowl. It was then that I saw his passion for the game and took him to our coach-cum-mentor Ansar Zafar.”

Rehman used to encourage his younger brother once he was selected for regional team, not even eight to ten hours practice would tire the youngster.

“The ground and the gym were supposed to be made for Hassan but they are open to all school-going players to practice for free as well,” he said.

“I have also built four classrooms for high school students, where teachers are available so that the players can study and practice cricket at the same venue.”

Soon after the inaugural PSL in which he caught the eyes of everyone, Hassan got into recognition with 17 wickets in the 2015 National T20 Cup. His 17 wickets at 17.05 in the National One-Day cup in 2016 was a key part of him being promoted to the Pakistan side.

That lifted Hassan to Pakistan’s ranks and he has not looked back since.

Ever since his ODI debut in Ireland last year Hassan has taken 38 wickets (after semi-final) which are the most by any bowler in the world.

Head coach Mickey Arthur has been a great fan on Hassan.

“Hassan has shown remarkable progress,” said Arthur. “He works really hard in the nets and does his best to improve with every game.”

The rise and rise of Hassan continues, but for his sake everyone prays he does not detrack, like Mohammad Zahid, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir did in the recent past.

Hassan is happy with his progress.

“I am very happy with my progress,” he said. “I am always told by my elders to work hard and Allah will give reward and that’s what happened.

“I promise more hard work because it’s an unending process. I love to contribute to team’s cause and wins.”

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