Pakistan fast bowler Hasan Ali has had an incredible journey in international cricket so far. From the highs of the 2017 Champions Trophy final win against India to the lows of a subsequent career-threatening back injury, Hasan has seen it all within a space of a few years.
The years 2019 and 2020 were especially rough on Hasan, with back, rib and groin injuries pushing him further towards the margins of Pakistan cricket. Like many other talented Pakistan quicks, it seemed he too would be forgotten.
But the 26-year-old did not throw in the towel. He took the tougher route back into contention - first-class cricket. In the final of the domestic Quaid-e-Azam trophy in January, Hasan took five wickets while captaining Central Punjab against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and scored a title-winning century while chasing in the fourth innings.
Hasan's resurgence on the domestic circuit, and improved fitness, saw the all-rounder return to all three formats for Pakistan. He took 10 wickets in the second Test against South Africa in February, and hasn't looked back since. In 2021, Hasan has picked up 26 wickets in four Tests - against South Africa and Zimbabwe - and 13 in six T20s.
Following a respectable Pakistan Super League, that concluded recently in Abu Dhabi where he finished with 13 wickets from 10 games, the right-arm pacer is preparing for the next destination in his comeback journey - England.
Pakistan play three ODIs and three T20s in England, starting from July 8, and Hasan is eager to be playing in the UK, where the conditions are ideal for his style of bowling.
"I always love to play in the UK. It always reminds me of the 2017 Champions Trophy victory. We have played a lot of cricket in UK. These conditions are perfect for my natural ability," Hasan told The National.
"The ball seams and drifts a bit when it is cloudy. I will try to do better against England."
The Champions Trophy final win over India, where he picked up three wickets, remains a highlight in Hasan's career. He last played there during the 2019 World Cup, where he struggled throughout and went for 84 runs against India. But it's a different Hasan this time, and he is eager to reach the levels of 2017.
"Undoubtedly, the 2017 Champions Trophy was our show," he said. "I was young and enthusiastic but the experience I have with me at the moment should help my team much better."
What makes it different this time is the fact Hasan nearly lost it all and had to fight his way back, enduring some dark moments in the process.
"Those weren't easy days but the only way forward was hard work, which I never left," he said. "I kept on trying for almost two years, I had my rehab at the High Performance Centre in Lahore which helped me a lot. Above all I had the faith, trust and prayers of my family. My wife and my mother offered me what no one else could.
"So it was hard work, belief and trust which kept me motivated. In the meantime I spent more time on my batting, especially hard-hitting. To be honest, I like hitting and I always enjoy batting. If you have bowling skills and you start enjoying your batting as well, what else would do you need?"
With so much happening within a short span, and especially after a long period in the wilderness, the questions arises - how much is too much?
Hasan is now playing almost non-stop, across formats. He is sure to be an important member of the Pakistan team at the T20 World Cup in the UAE in October. Burnout is always a concern with fast bowlers, but Hasan - who travels to the West Indies after the England series - believes now is the time to capitalise.
"We have got an opportunity to play against England and West Indies in the next two months. One is a world champion in 50-over format and other the T20 winners," he said.
"After that we have series against New Zealand and England. It will be a perfect opportunity to test our skills and potential right before a global event.
"Our team management always tries to manage the workload of players. So as a fast bowler I am comfortable with the current plan of our team management."