How Bilal Asif, once reported for suspect action, returned stronger and wrecked Australia on debut

First Published 11, Oct 2018, 1:39 PM IST
How Bilal Asif, once reported for suspect action, returned stronger and wrecked Australia on debut
Highlights

The 33-year-old Asif made his international debut back in 2015 when he played three one-dayers for Pakistan in Zimbabwe during which his bowling action was reported illegal but on assessment it was cleared by the International Cricket Council 

Dubai: Off-spinner Bilal Asif had an outstanding Test debut as he claimed six wickets against Australia at the Dubai International Stadium on Tuesday.

His 6/36 in the first Test triggered Australia’s collapse in the first innings as they lost all 10 wickets for 60 runs from a solid 142/0 to 202 all out.

After Mohammad Asif (7/64) and Mohammad Nazir (7/99), Asif now has the third best bowling figures in an innings on Test debut for Pakistan.

The 33-year-old Asif made his international debut back in 2015 when he played three one-dayers for Pakistan in Zimbabwe during which his bowling action was reported illegal but on assessment it was cleared by the International Cricket Council (ICC).

He was included in the team in 2017 for the two-match series against Sri Lanka but did not get a chance to play as the management thought he was still not ready.

He finally got his chance after a three-year wait when the management thought he was useful against three specialist left-handed batsmen (Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh and Travis Head) in the Australian team in the Dubai Test.

“It’s an old story that I went to Kuwait to help my father, but Malik advised me to return and fight hard for a place in the Pakistan team. It was a worthy return,” says Asif on how 10 years ago, all-rounder Shoaib Malik’s timely advice changed his career.

Asif hails from a small village named Allo Mahar Sharif which is on the outskirts of Daska. The region between Sialkot and Daska has a good record for producing cricketers like Zaheer Abbas, Ijaz Ahmed, Malik, Haris Sohail and Asif’s uncle, Zahid Saeed, a left-arm seamer who was among 22 probables for a training camp for the home series against India in 2004 and played 75 first-class matches, taking 299 wickets at an average of 24.54.

He is an Arts graduate and his first priority was always cricket. He made his first-class debut for Sialkot in 2011 at the age of 26 but only played five matches in his first two seasons.

The right-hander scored 310 runs in six matches, including his maiden century in 2014-15 and a 48-ball hundred during the Super 9 T20 Cup in May 2015. He also played two ODIs in Harare and one in Abu Dhabi.

On ODI debut against Zimbabwe, he opened the batting alongside captain Azhar Ali in the second match of the series but was out for a three-ball duck after going wicketless in eight overs (0/39). Although he helped his side seal the series 2-1 in the next match after claiming 5/25 and adding 38, right after he was reported for a suspect action.

He underwent testing at the ICC-accredited Sri Ramachandran University in Chennai and immediately had his action cleared.

Asif played under the captaincy of Amir Waseem at Tony Cricket Club until 2008, and then he left to lend a helping hand to his father who was an electrician in Kuwait. He later returned in 2010 to kick start his cricket career.

When Pakistan had lost Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez to suspect actions, Asif was tracked into the national set-up. Actually a specialist off-spinner, his brisk ball-striking caught the attention of selectors.

Working with former Pakistan leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed, Asif made significant progress.

Meanwhile, when Hafeez was struggling for form and Shadab Khan was ruled out for the series against Australia, Asif’s chances of making a Test debut improved.

“Being a professional cricketer, you have to be tough mentally. I always kept working hard. I didn’t think whether I would get a chance or not,” said Asif, who is also admired by team-mates for his singing talent.

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