KARACHI: Pakistan cricket team middle-order batter Asif Ali has revealed that he was mentally prepared that the T20 World Cup 2021 could be the last tournament of his international career, and he gave his all in that event.
Talking to Geo News, the 30-year-old Islamabad United star said that he worked harder for the T20 World Cup than he did for his international debut.
Asif was under criticism before the T20 World Cup because of inconsistencies in his performance. However, Asif's match-winning performances against New Zealand and Afghanistan turned the tables in his favor, and many of the critics became his cheerleaders.
"It is important to understand my position. The position in which I play brings frequent ups and downs. People need to understand that as a middle order and power-hitter, I’ve got a certain role, and in T20Is, sometimes I hardly get two or three balls. "People don’t see when I come to bat or how many deliveries I get, and then they say Asif didn’t score runs in the series," he rued.
"I don’t take criticism negatively. Some people hate you, while some love you. But it hurts when people who don't know anything about cricket comment on me. It’s okay when a cricketer comments because a player’s comments and analysis will be for improvement, and I take to learning from them, " Asif said.
The right-handed batter said that the T20 World Cup was crucial for him, and he had made up his mind that the event could be his last tournament.
"I convinced myself that whatever I’ve to do, I’ve to do in this tournament, and whatever I’ll do will decide my future. So I worked really hard. Luckily, it worked for me," he said.
Asif played unbeaten knocks of 27 and 25 against New Zealand and Afghanistan, respectively, to help Pakistan win these matches in the T20 World Cup, which changed Asif's destiny.
Recalling the match against Afghanistan, Asif said he was delighted to see the way fans cheered for him following that win. It was something like his hard work paid off. He, however, added that everyone wanted to win the world cup, but unfortunately, the team couldn't do well in the semi-final.
Talking about the match against New Zealand, Asif said that he and Shoaib Malik had decided to take it till the last over.
"We were waiting for bad deliveries, and we were punishing them. Shoaib Malik was very supportive there. "Both of us decided that we would make it till the last over, and we played according to our plan and succeeded," he said.
Referring to the moment when he was hit on the head by a bouncer from Tim Southee, Asif Ali said that he had decided that whatever happened, he would not leave the field.
"When I was hit, Shoaib Malik came and said, "Don’t go off the field." I said I was not going anywhere. I didn’t feel the impact immediately, but when I ran after that, I felt a vibration in my head followed by a little dizziness, " he recalled.
"Shoaib Malik was still saying that I shouldn’t go off the field as the match was just a couple of shots away, I said to him – whatever happens, I am staying in the field, even if I fall down, I will make sure that we finish the match," Asif said while recalling that particular moment.
He praised the Pakistan Cricket Board's (PCB) decision to hire a power-hitting coach for the Pakistan team. He also said that players should be prepared for this job at the domestic level so that they’re ready before coming to the Pakistan team.
"A lot is being done for power-hitting, but we have hardly any power hitters in the middle overs. We need to prepare some players at the domestic level so that whenever they appear on the national side, they’re well prepared for the job," he said.
Replying to a question, Asif Ali said that whenever a player is down, it is important for him to get the backing of the captain and team management. Asif also said that he has always received such support from the dressing room of Islamabad United.
"I give credit to them, I’ve played several leagues, but the atmosphere at United is not found anywhere else," he mentioned.
Talking about PSL, he said that he’s eagerly waiting for action and praying that all goes well amidst the fifth wave of COVID-19 in the country.
He said that more than any personal laurel, he is focused on making his side Islamabad United win the tournament, and that’s his aim for the PSL.
"We are a very balanced team. I must say that United’s management is always spot-on with their emerging picks. They know the players who is doing well at the domestic level, they pick them – provide them with a bigger stage and allow them to knock the selectors’ doors for the Pakistan national team" he said.
Asif also shared his thoughts on life in a bio-secure bubble, saying it is more complicated than one can imagine, especially for the players who are struggling with form, as they won’t have anywhere else to go other than sitting isolated in the rooms.
He urged the fans to follow COVID-19 protocols when they come to the stadium for PSL matches.
"It is important for everyone’s health, and more importantly, it is important for PSL that it happens without any inconvenience, " he concluded.