Babar Azam backs Hasan Ali to stage Pakistan comeback

Captain sees tour of Netherlands and Asia Cup as an opportunity for youngsters to cement their spot

Hasan Ali, centre, has lost his spot in the Pakistan team. AFP
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Pakistan captain Babar Azam has backed Hasan Ali to stage a comeback soon, after the all-rounder was dropped from the team for the ODI tour of the Netherlands and the Asia Cup T20 tournament in the UAE later this month.

Hasan has been struggling in white-ball cricket for more than a few seasons. After a victorious campaign at the 2017 Champions Trophy in England, where he was player of the tournament, Ali has fallen down the pecking order. Since 2019, he has picked up 16 wickets in 18 ODIs and 27 scalps in 21 T20s. His worst moment came during the T20 World Cup in the UAE last year where he dropped Australia's Matthew Wade during the chase in the semi-final. The batsman then hit three successive sixes to secure a place in the final, which the Aussies won.

However, captain Azam said Hasan is a team player and will be backed to succeed.

“I know Hasan Ali is not in form, but it’s not like that he has to prove anything,” Azam said in Lahore on Thursday as Pakistan prepared to leave for the Netherlands.

“I support Hasan Ali because he’s a team man. Domestic cricket is coming up, he’ll play that and hopefully make a strong comeback.”

Ali's indifferent form forced selectors to include uncapped quick Naseem Shah in the white-ball format. With pace spearhead Shaheen Afridi injured, but still included the squad to be monitored, Pakistan's pace attack will be an inexperienced one. Haris Rauf and Shahnawaz Dahani are the other quicks in the team.

“We’re taking a couple of doctors on the way to take care of Shaheen,” Azam said. “We’re looking long term at his fitness and health. We want him to play a game against the Netherlands, provided he’s fit, and be ready for the Asia Cup.

“Our fast bowling bench strength is excellent. They’ve now got an opportunity to showcase their skills. This is how you expand your pool.”

There is inexperience in the batting department as well. Veteran Shoaib Malik was not considered for selection while Mohammad Hafeez has quit international cricket. Azam sees it a an opportunity for the next generation.

“When senior players leave the side, those replacing them need to focus,” Babar said. “Hafeez and Malik were huge players and we’ll miss them a lot.

“Players like Asif Ali, Khushdil Shah and Iftikhar need to fill their boots. We want to give them plenty of matches and confidence, and these players have performed. We’re also looking to utilise Shadab Khan’s batting, because batting depth is very useful in T20 cricket now.”

Updated: August 11, 2022, 7:49 PM