Dubai: Success in sport is all about handling pressure. Young UAE all-rounder Ali Naseer got his lessons on the same during his DP World ILT20 stint with Desert Vipers in the inaugural season last year. He now is keen to raise the bar and further improve on his performance during the second edition while he keenly awaits the opportunity to bowl in tandem with Pakistan pace ace Shaheen Shah Afridi when the league begins in January next year.
“The last edition was more of a learning curve where I got to work with Azhar Mahmood, the bowling coach, and Neil McKenzie, our batting coach. Over the course of a month, I was able to learn different tricks (bowling) from Azhar Mahmood, in terms of slower balls, and where to actually bowl, which line and length to bowl to certain batsmen, and that was really helpful for me,” said the 19-year-old, who has made rapid strides since the inaugural edition earlier this year.
“In terms of bowling, what I learnt was how to handle pressure, how to bowl in pressure (conditions), because when you are bowling, even in the nets you have people like Tom Moody and Azhar Mahmood watching you bowl. So, I think you are bound to have nerves while bowling. Also bowling to people like Sam Billings and Alex Hales taught me a lot. Even if they were hitting me for a six, they were telling me what I was doing wrong and how to improve and that was really helpful.”
Ali Naseer, one of the two retained players along with veteran Rohan Mustafa in the Vipers’ squad, is happy that his hard work is paying off. The UAE all-rounder scored back to back half centuries against the West Indies in the three-match One-Day International series ahead of the World Cup qualifiers in June. That was followed by the ICC World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe where Ali opened the bowling for the UAE and shared top wicket-taking honours for his team with eight wickets from six games while also contributing with the bat.
Improving quality of UAE players
“I was pleased to be back with the 2023 finalists Vipers and to hear they retained me and Mustafa. I also feel I deserved it because at the time when they retained me, I was playing really well. I scored back-to-back fifties against the West Indies and had a few good games in the World Cup Qualifiers, so I was glad my hard work has paid off,” he said. “Only 12 of the UAE players got retained, and the rest have to try and battle it out to get picked by the franchises, so I am glad to be retained by the Vipers.”
Ali feels the DP World ILT20 has played a key role in improving the quality of UAE players when facing Test-playing nations like Sri Lanka, West Indies and New Zealand.
“ILT20 taught us how to play against bowlers who bowl really quick, and bowlers who have good control over their line and length. Thanks to that, we (UAE team) were able to go into the West Indies series with a lot more confidence. And although the results did not go in our favour, I still think we learnt a lot from that series.”
Learning the nuances of the game
Ali is excited to be playing with Afridi and is keen to pick his brains to learn the nuances of the game. Vipers have also included star Pakistan all-rounder Shadab Khan. “He is obviously one of the best left-arm swing bowlers in the world. I can learn how he swings the ball and how his mindset is before going into big games. Obviously, [he understands this since] he has played against the biggest teams in the world, and has played in a World Cup final,” he added.
“It is important [for me] to work on my fitness because of my role. I am an all-rounder, so it is very important for me to be able to bowl four overs of high-quality pace, but also be able to bat about 30 balls and score 50-60 runs off that. So I am working with the strength and conditioning coach of the UAE Azhar Qureshi, and we are working towards getting to the highest level,” he said on his fitness.