Dubai: Pakistan batting sensation Asif Ali, who has grabbed headlines with his six-hitting prowess in last two T20 World Cup matches, insisted that he has never paid heed to criticism about his selection in the national squad. The 30-year-old’s selection for the T20 World Cup squad had caused an uproar in Pakistani media, with many terming his inclusion as ”flawed”.
He was often guilty of letting the team down in international matches in the past. ”Firstly, I’m far away from social media and don’t follow the chatter. I don’t know about the criticism,” Asif said in the post-match interaction after smashing 25 not out off seven balls to power Pakistan to a five-wicket win over Afghanistan with an over to spare. Needing 24 off the final two overs, Asif tonked four sixes off Karim Jannat to finish the job in the 19th over as the 2009 champions put one foot in the semi-finals with three wins on the trot.
But Asif did not have a perfect buil-up to the showpiece with critics blaming the Mohammad Wasim-led selection committee for giving him yet another chance after repeated failures.
In domestic T20s, Asif boasted off a strike rate of 147.02 in 203 matches.
Davis Cup: India draw Pakistan again, PTF won't agree to shifting matches to neutral venue
But at the international level before the World Cup, Asif had a modest strike rate of 123.74 from 29 T20Is.
His best score of 41 against Zimbabwe had come in July 2018, and he failed to reach double digit scores from his last four innings.
”The statsmen will only tell you that you have scored 10 runs from three innings (13 runs from three innings),” he pointed out.
”But they ignore the fact that you’ve played only two or three balls of the last over.
”In my last series (versus Zimbabwe and South Africa), I played at no 6. It’s a difficult position, if you don’t do well, they just pull out the numbers without getting into details and challenges faced in the middle-order.” The Islamabad United batsman further said he had earned his place on the merit of his form.
”I was in and out of the team, but the team wanted me and I was recalled. I was focused on my job. I was playing all the (franchise) leagues around the world, and also the domestic cricket,” Asif said.
”I was in fine touch with my game. So, it was obvious that I could play because I was performing,” he said.
He credited his turnaround to sheer hardwork at the nets where he had specifically asked the management to prepare him for death overs.
”I did a hell lot of practice for this finisher’s role. Earlier I would go and just bat at the nets but then I spoke to the coaches and asked them to prepare me in practice sessions as if I were batting in the final five-six overs,” Asif said.
”I did a lot of hard work after struggling in the last few series. You are seeing its result now. I’m really happy with the way the management worked with me and you’re seeing the results. Our focus is firmly on winning the World Cup.” Asif has been a revelation in the ongoing T20 World Cup and first showed his ominous form against New Zealand where he took their star pacer Tim Southee to the cleaners with two sixes in a row in his 27 not out from 12 balls.
Against Afghanistan, he faced a bigger challenge after Naveen-ul-Haq conceded just two runs and dismissed the experienced pro Shoaib Malik in the 18th over.
”The boundary on the on-side was smaller from the end in that 19th over. But they bowled wide on the off side and that’s where I ended up hitting sixes at the bigger boundary. That wasn’t exactly the plan, but I just hit the balls I got.
”I kept telling Shoaib Malik we’d target this end, but unfortunately he ended up getting out. Thankfully, we ended up winning the match,” Asif said.
He also thanked his former coach and ex-Pakistan captain Misbah Ul Haq for the turnaround. ”I want to thank Misbah with whom I started my career in Faisalabad and later at SNGPL. Then I played under him when he became coach of Pakistan. He worked very hard with me and I’ll always be grateful to him. All my coaches have worked with me and I’m thankful to them,” he signed off.