Quaid-e-Azam Trophy’s top-scorer out to replace Younus

Published: November 23, 2017
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Finishing a finisher: Saad says he wants to become a finisher in the middle-order for the Pakistan side. PHOTO COURTESY: Khel Shel

Finishing a finisher: Saad says he wants to become a finisher in the middle-order for the Pakistan side. PHOTO COURTESY: Khel Shel

KARACHI: A lot is going right in the world for Saad Ali. He is just 24 and is leading the scoring charts in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy.

It is therefore understandable that he is eyeing the vacant middle-order spots in the Pakistan Test side, looking to emulate the recently retired Younus Khan.

Saad’s fate was sealed even before he was born; his father was a professional cricketer as well and for Saad, all roads were going to lead to Rome.

“I started playing professional cricket at the age of 14 and was an opener to begin with,” Saad told The Express Tribune. “My coach Azam Khan then converted me into a middle-order batsman.”

The move didn’t make much sense to a young Saad, who always loved striking the newer ball. “As an opener, I was really good with the new ball and I had to change my game a lot to adapt to the middle order. My coach had a lot of trust in me and that paid dividend.”

A few years later, Saad was off to the U19 World Cup as part of Pakistan’s middle-order.

“To be named in the 2012 U19 World Cup squad was a proud moment for me, my parents and my club,” he said. “It was then that I started working even harder.”

Some impressive performances in the U19 side led to a call-up to the Pakistan A side, where he was named in the home series against Kenya. Saad didn’t feature there but the away series against Zimbabwe in 2016 saw him named its best performer.

“I just played my natural game and was quite glad to be named the best performer,” he said. “The credit for my performances go to coach Ejaz Ahmed.”

Saad’s first-class career is still a fledgling one, having first joined State Bank of Paksitan in 2015. His Quaid-e-Azam Trophy debut came against Lahore Whites last year, with the left-hander promptly scoring a half-century on debut. Inconsistency, though, plagued the youngster.

“My performances weren’t that good in the beginning as I didn’t play that many matches but I have had a great start to this season,” he said. “Transferring to UBL really helped me since I am able to learn from a lot of professional and experienced players.”

But Saad is not going to rest on his laurels, and is looking to score more than 1,000 runs this season.

“When I joined UBL, manager Nadeem Khan told me I should aim to score at least 800 runs,” said Saad. “He was impressed when I told him I like to think about my next innings but suggested I should still set myself some goals. I therefore am aiming for 1,000 runs, a double century and one century on a personal level. While I want to guide UBL to the trophy.”

Saad’s performances have not gone unnoticed and he was picked up by Quetta Gladiators in the Pakistan Super League (PSL). “I favour the longer two formats but the PSL is a tournament of the highest quality so sharing a dressing room with the best players in the world will be great for me.”

The 24-year-old may not favour the shortest format but his performances so far have been nothing to scoff at, having scored 50, 21 and 25 and a healthy average of 32.

“I was brought into the Islamabad team as Shoaib Malik’s replacement after he went to play in the Bangladesh Premier League,” said Saad. “That was a big honour for me since I want to become a finisher like Malik.”

Despite coming from a family that has produced cricketers before, Saad admits he advised his other four brothers to not pursue the sport as a profession. “My younger brother wanted to be a cricketer too but I told him that it isn’t all glitz and glamour and that a lot of hard work goes into it,” he said. “I want him to focus on his studies. I was unable to do so since I had to tour for Pakistan and therefore had to drop out.”

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