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India vs Pakistan: Struck by Tragedy, Besieged by Poor Form – Asif Ali Enters the Cauldron

Sarah Waris |June 16, 2019, 7:18 AM IST
India vs Pakistan: Struck by Tragedy, Besieged by Poor Form – Asif Ali Enters the Cauldron

It was all going rather well for Asif Ali. After knocks of 51, 52, 17 and 22, at a strike rate of 131.48, against England in May, he earned a spot in the World Cup squad. Initially ignored, Ali was called up to fill the vacuum of the missing power hitter in Pakistan’s middle order.

However, a cruel twist was in store. Just hours after the last ODI of the series was played, Ali had to fly out to USA to bury his 19-month old daughter, who had been suffering from cancer. In an emotional press conference in March, Dean Jones, the head coach of Islamabad United, had broken the news of her ailment.

Yet, when he was called upon to play for Pakistan in the England series, Ali didn’t take a backward step, hitting sixes against the likes of Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and David Willey at Southampton and then at Bristol as he raced away to fine fifties in the two games. Though Pakistan went on to lose both matches, Ali’s striking ability caught the eye.

However, the tragic death of his child put a question mark on whether he could actually play the World Cup in the middle of an emotional whirlwind of this kind. Though chairman of selectors Inzamam-ul-Haq allowed Ali time off from the game, he chose instead to play.

Asif Ali

Ali’s ODI numbers don’t grab you by the collar. An average of less than 28 means doesn’t make a strong contention for a permanent batting spot but then he possesses a rare quality that is missing in the Pakistan line-up. With more sixes than fours in his career so far, coach Mickey Arthur is among those in Ali’s corner.

"Asif was very impressive today. It's no secret the one thing we've lacked is a bit of power hitting and he has the ability to do that for us. He did his chances no harm with the innings he played,” Arthur said after the second ODI, where Ali scored 51 in 36 balls to take his team within touching distance of England’s 373.

However, Ali has been unable to find his groove in the World Cup so far. Both times in the tournament he has walked out after the top order had set him a solid foundation - the scorecard read 279 for 4 against England and 147 for 5, chasing 308 against the Aussies. Both times he had the perfect opportunity to go big but alas, he failed, making 14 and 5.

Against England, he was troubled by Jofra Archer who was bowling missiles above 143kmph at him. As he slashed and missed constantly, and evaded deliveries in an ungainly manner after taking his eyes off the ball, it was not tough to gauge that that Ali was struggling. Poor timing haunted him through the 11-ball stay and he was eventually dismissed by Mark Wood.

And to make matters worse, against Australia, he struggled in the field too, dropping two regulation catches. The reaction of fans on the ground even found mention in a tweet shared by the International Cricket Council.

With the bat, he faced 7 balls for 5 runs - unable to decipher the angle that Pat Cummins was bowling from and soon ended up giving his wicket away to Kane Richardson as he pushed meekly at a ball that was pitched up.

With two below par games, the match against India will be a huge test - of nerves, skills and emotion. These weeks have surely weighed heavily on the 27-year old, and a contest of this ferocity will undoubtedly come with huge pressure. Asif Ali will have to find a way to somehow cope….to somehow overcome….

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Cricket World Cup Points Table

9 7 1 1 15 +0.80
9 7 2 0 14 +0.86
9 6 3 0 12 +1.15
9 5 3 1 11 +0.17
9 5 3 1 11 -0.43
9 3 4 2 8 -0.91
9 3 5 1 7 -0.03
9 3 5 1 7 -0.41
9 2 6 1 5 -0.22
9 0 9 0 0 -1.32

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 3631 113
2 New Zealand 2547 111
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 3663 105
5 Australia 2640 98
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6420 123
2 India 6807 122
3 New Zealand 4763 113
4 Australia 5470 112
5 South Africa 5193 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 7365 283
2 England 4253 266
3 South Africa 4196 262
4 Australia 5471 261
5 India 7273 260
see more