Pakistan pacer Hasan Ali is optimistic that the Champions Trophy final with archrivals India will see him continue to live the dream he had before the competition started.
The 23-year-old’s role has been vital to Pakistan’s progress since a distressing 124-run defeat by India in their tournament opener at Edgbaston on June 4 and heads to Sunday’s final at the Oval as the 2017 edition’s prominent wicket-taker with 10 at an average of just 17.20 apiece.
Given that Bhuvneshwar Kumar, India’s most successful bowler, has taken six wickets so far, it will take something special to stop Hasan from finishing as the leading wicket-taker in a tournament featuring the world’s top eight one-day international sides.
Hasan’s achievement becomes more impressive given that he only made his ODI debut in August last year.
“It’s like a dream,” Hasan told reporters on Friday. “I set a goal for myself during the West Indies series (in Guyana in April) and it was to become the best bowler in the Champions Trophy.
“I want to achieve that goal,” added Hasan, whose 20 career ODIs have yielded a haul of 39 wickets at an average of 23.92 — impressive figures in a form of the game where, with fielding restrictions and increasingly short boundaries, the odds are often all in favor of batsmen making big scores.
He conveyed his eagerness to win the the golden ball. “Now when I knew that the best bowler will get a ‘golden ball’, I am determined to get that souvenir as it will be my first in my career,” he added.
Hasan’s extraordinary array of skills was displayed during Pakistan’s leading eight-wicket semi-final win in Cardiff on Wednesday against an England side formerly unbeaten in the tournament.
Hasan complimented Pakistan’s bowling coach Azhar Mahmood, who himself is an extremely experienced former international seam-bowling all-rounder who also spent several seasons in English county cricket, notably with Oval-based Surrey.
“I will give the credit for my improvement to Azhar Mahmood, who has been working very hard with us bowlers,” said Hasan, adding: “I have the much needed rhythm, so I will do my best to continue that.”
Pakistan’s resurrection after their initial defeat by India has been something to see even allowing for their reputation as world cricket’s most “unpredictable” team and Hasan insisted the pressure of playing India, the title-holders, in a final would not cause his side to retreat back into their shells.
“I am very positive about the final,” said Hasan, who took one for 70 when the teams net in the group phase. “The mistakes we committed in the first game will not be repeated and we will try to execute the plans given by coaches,” he added.