Asif Ali's double-edged power-hitting master plan for upcoming T20 Asia Cup

By: News Desk
Published: 03:54 PM, 23 Aug, 2022
Asif Ali's double-edged power-hitting master plan for upcoming T20 Asia Cup
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Pakistan may have failed to secure the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021 final spot, but the event will always be recognized for the team's electrifying run, which was highlighted by their record-breaking five straight victories in the group stages. Asif Ali, one of the team's crucial players, twice used his fierce power hitting to rescue Pakistan from loss and secure dramatic victories.

Following a perfect 10-wicket win over India, Pakistan found themselves in a spot of bother with 48 needed off 31 with half of their batters back in the pavilion. Asif Ali carved Trent Boult through point and smashed Tim Southee for back-to-back sixes two overs later. The onslaught would see Pakistan finish the game in the penultimate over with Asif smashing Boult for a six-down long-on, putting the iconic Sharjah Stadium on fire and stealing a double on the next ball.

The strong right-handed batter came to Pakistan’s rescue the very next match again on their course to a 148-run target against Afghanistan in Dubai. After having lost Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik in a span of six balls and the tide turning in favour of Afghanistan, Pakistan required 24 off 12. Asif, not one to take things deeply, smacked Karim Jannat for four sixes to once again close the match for his side in the penultimate over.

“It would be the one against New Zealand,” chuckled Asif when asked by PCB Digital to choose his favourite performance from the two. “I was under pressure coming into the match as I had not been able to perform in the previous series and we were in a tough situation. I was hit on my head [by a Southee bouncer] and was feeling a bit dizzy. But, I told myself that I am here; fine and alive. No matter what, I will deliver for my team.”

The fearless approach that embodies his destructive strokeplay is reflective of his designated role in the team as the finisher and his willingness to go the extra mile has been a feature of his career since the beginning.

When Asif emerged on the domestic scene in Faisalabad, his name became synonymous with long, towering sixes. His ability to deposit bowlers from any length far beyond the boundary would turn him into a local legend.

An incredible Pakistan Super League 2018 in which his strike rate hovered around 215 in the death overs, saw him elevated to the national side and he made his international debut some days later against the West Indies in Karachi.

To establish his name amongst the big hitters, and then go on to deliver at the stage that matters the most, Asif has a strict power-hitting regime he adheres to. “I try to hit 100 to 150 sixes in my practice sessions so I am ready to hit sixes in the match.” This is one aspect of the two-pronged strategy.

As is the case with cricketers in this part of the world, Asif’s first introduction to cricket was through tapeball – a form of cricket in which tennis ball is wrapped with electric tape that helps the pacers to bowl with pace and the tape’s wear and tear provides substantial lateral movement in the air, replicating reverse-swing. Asif was a known professional tape-ball cricketer in Faisalabad and the teams would pay him to travel and represent them in different tournaments across the country.

Tapeball cricket played a crucial role in his power-hitting evolution. “It [batting in tapeball cricket] is the best practice for hard-hitting,” he says, “As the ball swings and there is late swing as well. You need to have impeccable balance and head position with pretty still feet to counter it. It also helps in developing a good bat speed. Even today, when I go home, I play tape-ball cricket.”

Typing a few keywords like “Asif Ali” and “Tape ball” on the YouTube search bar will give you a closer look at how he goes about his business in single-wicket competitions.

After the T20 World Cup last year, there will be expectations from Asif to replicate those remarkable cameos when he walks out in the middle in the upcoming ACC T20 Asia Cup in the same country.

Asif is all set to deliver on them.