Abid Ali
Pakistan's Abid Ali (L) celebrates after scoring 150 runs next to captain Azhar Ali during the third day of the second Test cricket match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the National Cricket Stadium in Karachi on December 21, 2019. Image Credit: AFP

Pakistan’s top order batsman Abid Ali, who is today the talking point in cricket, was a regular player in the UAE’s domestic cricket and had captained the Danube cricket team.

After scoring a century in his One Day International (ODI) debut in March this year at the Dubai International Stadium against Australia, he has now hit a century in his Test debut against Sri Lanka in Rawalpindi and has also hit a second successive century in the ongoing second Test in Karachi.

If Ali is to hit a third century, then he will equal India’s Mohammad Azharuddin’s record of three hundreds in his first three Tests after his debut in 1984.

Ali’s rise to glory and into Pakistan’s cricket history books is one of strong willpower. When at the age of 31 he went on to hit a century in his ODI debut, everyone wondered why he had to wait so long to get his chance. Ali used to score heavily in Pakistan’s domestic cricket and had averaged over 50, but never got picked for the national team.

It was during the press conference after his ODI debut that I realised that he used to captain Danube cricket team in domestic matches here.

Danube team owner Anis Sajan is known to give opportunities to promising Pakistan cricketers to play for his team. Following Ali’s coach Sabih Azhar’s recommendation, Sajan picked him. In 2014, when Sajan organised the Danube Two-Day Test series, Ali captained Danube Lions to the title triumph.

For five years, Sajan flew him down from Pakistan during off season, and Ali played a pivotal role in Danube winning all major tournaments.

Ali’s ODI score was the highest score by a Pakistan player on debut. His century came while chasing Australia’s 277-7 and Ali batted like he had played many such knocks in international cricket. Pakistan fell short of the target by six runs, but Ali won the hearts of the Pakistan fans here.

Cricket is called a game of glorious uncertainty. Cricketers too must realise that the uncertainty factor can hit them as well. Pakistan’s team selection is well known for its vagaries. But Ali never let the disappointment of not getting a chance to pull him down. To earn his ODI cap, he had to score over 13,000 runs from his 102 first class matches!

After his debut ODI century, I had imagined he would be part of the Pakistan squad for the 2019 World Cup; but surprisingly he was ignored again. Ali turned 32 this October, but his will power too increased with age. He is a model for those who give up hope due to frustration. For Ali, be it in the UAE or Pakistan domestic cricket, ODI or Test match, his focus is only on piling up the runs.