From the highs of 2017 Champions Trophy to the lows of 2019 ODI World Cup, Hasan Ali's career has taken an interesting turn. In the latest drubbing against India on Sunday, Hasan was Pakistan's most expensive bowler and finished with sobering figures of 1-84 in nine overs.
Once again he was inconsistent with his lengths, either too short or too wide and helped Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul get away with easy runs and lay a strong foundation. While his opening partner Muhammad Amir only gave away six runs in his 3 overs, Hasan conceded 26. By the time he ended his fifth over he had already gone for 45 and his last four overs cost Pakistan 39 runs. The difference between his Champions Trophy and World Cup numbers so far is staggering.
Hasan made his first-class debut against Lahore Ravi and immediately made his mark with five wickets in the match with four of them coming in the first innings. His coruscating performances in the domestic were rewarded with him being selected by Peshawar Zalmi for the inaugural PSL edition where he was a breakthrough star. Preceding the 2016 PSL season, he had picked up eight wickets in four games in the National T20 Cup, followed by 17 wickets in National One Day Cup in January 2016.
After making his debut for Pakistan in August 2016, Hasan became a regular in the white ball format. He had a stellar first year and was instrumental in Pakistan's Champions Trophy triumph two years back. His economical spells along with wickets in the middle overs were crucial in Pakistan's surge to the title. By the time Pakistan won the trophy, Hasan had already taken three or more wickets nine times (two five-for against Australia and West Indies) in 21 ODIs.
Consistent performances thereafter saw him become the number-one ranked bowler in ODIs in October 2017. On his way, he also became the quickest Pakistani to reach 50 ODI wickets eclipsing the great Waqar Younis, and fifth overall. He achieved this feat in his 24th game. Waqar had nothing but praises for him: “I love this kid Hasan Ali. He reminds me of my younger days and he’s got what it takes to become the great of the game.”
Hasan, unarguably, had all the attributes to carry the legacy of his predecessors. His flamboyance and swagger on the field were reminiscent of the great Pakistani bowlers of past.
But since 2017, the wheels have come off. His bowling has lost much of its potency. The wickets have dried up. His ability to mix up accuracy through cross-seam deliveries which duped batsmen are nowhere to be seen. Skiddy bouncers and devastating yorkers in the death are missing from his arsenal. Last time he picked up two wickets in an ODI was in November 2018.
The numbers in 2019 paint an extremely sorry picture for him. There is a myriad of criticism on his place in the side. Some pundits are questioning his pace while others are lamenting on his lack of intensity and attitude.
Pakistan's general inability to take wickets with the new ball has been inimical in Hasan's dip in form. In the recent past, he has been given the responsibility of leading the pace attack with the likes of inexperienced Shaheen Afridi and Muhammad Hasnain, which has also taken its toll. A slight dip in Shadab Khan's performances 2018 and his absence in the series against England preceding the World Cup has also contributed to Hasan’s demise.
In addition, he hasn't done well in the new role of opening the bowling which has further dented his confidence. Against India, it was only the tenth time he opened the bowling for Pakistan in 53 matches. Perhaps the stats will finally pinch the team management to reconsider his role and get him back to bowl with the old ball.
Pakistan now find their backs against the wall and need to win their remaining four fixtures to remain in the hunt for a semi-final spot. With the likes of Shaheen, who himself is low on confidence and rookie Hasnain on the bench, Pakistan don't have any reliable options to fall back upon.
Hasan Ali now finds himself at a crossroad where a failure to improve himself could be disastrous for his career. Both Hasan and the team management need to reflect on his recent performances and think about his lack of success. His ability is being questioned and if that doesn't galvanize him, probably nothing will.