Nauman Ali Hopes To Represent Pakistan After Starring in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy
With the arrival of new PCB Head Wasim Khan in 2019 came a host of changes to the domestic cricket system. The new PCB setup focused on making changes in many aspects, but none were more visible than this. After an aggressive push toward a new 6-team system by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the system was ratified ahead of the 2019/20 season.
After a slow start to the season where pitches were flat, and batsmen prospered, a few performers eventually made their mark. Among them was Balochistan opener Imran Butt who made 934 runs. Meanwhile, Northern spinner Nauman Ali flourished with the ball, picking 54 wickets with 5 five-wicket hauls.
Fast forward to late-2020, and it’s the batsman who was selected for the Pakistan + Shaheens combined squad for New Zealand. In the meantime, left-arm spinner Nauman once again got an opportunity to impress in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and make a statement.
With the tournament now coming to its conclusion, the spinner from Sanghar, Sindh, is again topping the charts with 60+ wickets. In an interview with Grassroots Cricket, he stated, “All thanks to The Almighty; from the last 2-3 years, I have been performing well.”
The 34-year-old has picked up more than 110 wickets in the new domestic cricket system. No one else has yet managed to hit the 90-wicket mark. He attributed the results he has earned to his hard work and focus on consistency. “After every game, I look forward to performing in the next one and being consistent with my performance.”
Supporters of the new domestic cricket system emphasize how much it has helped improve the quality of cricket. Additionally, there is no doubt that it has brought spinners into the game. “In the previous system, I hardly ever got a chance to bowl, but in the new system, I am bowling more often, which has helped me improve a lot,” Nauman said.
When it comes to spinners representing Pakistan, the national team has often relied on the wrist-spin variety. In the last 20 years, Danish Kaneria and Yasir Shah have played crucial roles, while Abdul Qadir was the pioneer of this art. Since 1990, no left-arm spinner has debuted for Pakistan and picked up more than 100 wickets.
Naturally, Nauman also harbors hopes of representing the nation. “Before every game and before every tournament, I have this goal in my mind (representing Pakistan).” He stated that he wishes to finish top of the wicket-takers list in the 2020 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, saying that he is hopeful of getting a chance for Pakistan after that.
With Yasir Shah averaging more than 50 with the ball over the past two years, the selectors are undoubtedly keeping an eye on potential alternatives. Nauman is hopeful that he will be the one given preference after his remarkable efforts. “Every player has a dream to represent Pakistan, and similarly for me also, I dream of representing Pakistan.”
One of the things that work in his favor is that the new Chief Selector, Mohammad Wasim, has also served as his coach at Northern. The former Pakistan Test cricketer has closely seen the left-arm spinner in action, picking up 11 five-wicket hauls in just two seasons.
Nauman is a definite admirer of his coaching, saying, “His plans are very good; he plans as per the demands of PCB and modern cricket, and the result is there for everyone to see. Our team has been performing well and trying to achieve the goals set by PCB.”
One of the things that may go against him is age. Only one player in the last 65 years has debuted for Pakistan after their 34th birthday, and that was fellow left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar. However, there is no doubt that Nauman’s performances are on the rise in recent seasons. He remains more than capable of competing at the top level.
“If you look at my performances in the last 3-4 years, they keep getting better & better, and it’s after I turned 30 that I got to learn how to bowl in four-day cricket properly.” The argument has merit, and ignoring a performer like this will only get harder.
With Pakistan soon hosting South Africa, it may be a now-or-never decision for Mohammad Wasim when he sits down to finalize his first Pakistan squad, considering Nauman’s age. It remains to be seen whether he will show the same faith in Nauman with the Pakistan team as he did with the Northern side. As far as the numbers go, they don’t lie – the 34-year-old left-arm spinner has undeniably been the best bowler in Pakistan First Class cricket for the last couple of seasons.