Islamabad: The cricketing ties between India and Pakistan are at an all-time low. They rarely play each other and the situation is further aggravated by an ongoing legal dispute between the PCB and the BCCI.
So, every Indo-Pak contest, weeks before its scheduled date, starts to make headlines.
Such is the anticipation that the only thing the players and team management are asked is about that one particular match.
It was the case when Hasan Ali fronted the media during a training camp for the upcoming Asia Cup.
Almost every question, one way or the other, was about the big contest on September 19. Since thrashing India in the ICC Champions Trophy Final over a year ago, this will be the first instance the two teams will come face to face.
“We are on top right now and they [India] will be under pressure from the previous defeat,” said Hasan while speaking to reporters.
“In UAE, these are our conditions, we have the home advantage as we have been playing here for long and very much aware how to use the conditions well. There is definitely a pressure but I feel good when pressure mounts on me because that is where I try to perform and help my side win.”
Hasan picked up the wickets of MS Dhoni, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Jasprit Bumrah – the last wicket of the match – while conceding only 19 runs in 6.3 overs in the final.
He was the best bowler of the tournament with 13 wickets – four more than the second highest wicket-taker Josh Hazlewood – at an average of 14.69.
What stands out is the fact that he has been the most successful ODI bowler for Pakistan since his debut against Ireland in August 2016.
He has taken 68 wickets in 33 matches at a strike-rate of 24, which is the highest for any Pakistan bowler to have taken more than 20 wickets in this span.
Upon becoming the number one ODI bowler last year, Hasan had expressed his desire to bowl to Virat Kohli.
But with the BCCI resting the skipper for the tournament, the move has given Pakistan an advantage, according to the Pakistan pacer.
“Kohli is a very good player. We all know he is match winner,” he said.
Though India are still a good side, his absence is going to be an advantage for us.
He can drive his team out of pressure anytime and any newcomer won’t be good enough to handle the pressure.
I am definitely going to miss bowling at him. It’s natural that every young bower would like to have his wicket.
“But it’s okay if he is not coming … I will look for him the next time. I wasn’t targeting Kohli only. We are not going to play only against India as there are other teams [in the tournament] as well. Our main focus is the entire tournament rather than winning one game and losing others. We have do well to beat every team and try to win the tournament.”
Since Pakistan have a higher benchmark for the yo-yo test than India, there have been comparisons between the fitness levels of Hasan and Kohli on social media.
And, recently, there were rumours that he wishes to keep himself away from the longer version of cricket to focus more on the white ball game to cut on the burden.
He, however, struck down the notion.
“People might be comparing my fitness results with Kohli, but he is fitter anyway,” he pointed out.
“He is a world class player, he is our senior and a legend. There is nothing like I am competing with him, but I have enhanced my focus to be fitter which is anyway required for me. As a youngster you have to look after yourself properly and keep yourself fit. I want to play Test cricket and that’s my ambition. Similarly like my T20I and ODI performance, I want to carry on my good work in Tests as well and with my fitness, I can go long way with it.”
Pakistan begin their Asia Cup campaign on the second day of the tournament against Hong Kong.