Asif Ali. There are players who complain that they haven't got to spend much time in the middle then there is Ali who has all but played just 19 deliveries in the tournament. Just 19 deliveries has witnessed him helping Pakistan to back-to-back wins against New Zealand and Afghanistan. Just 19 deliveries has made him the hero of a nation mad about cricket. Just 19 deliveries has brought back loads of joy for him and his family that have seen it all in the past few years.
The right-handed batter hit seven out of those 19 deliveries for a six and that has made all the difference to Pakistan's campaign at the ICC Men's T20 World Cup this year. While they did not give India any chance in their opening match, there were loopholes in their middle order which were exposed twice in two matches but Asif took it upon himself to finish the match for his side on both occasions.
Later he responded by saying, "Aur koi hukam Pakistan? Shukriya @isbunited aur woh sub log jinho ne mere per belief rakha mere mushkil waqt mai. #PakistanZindabad" which roughly translates to "Anything else you need, Pakistan? Thank you Islamabad United and to all those who trusted me during difficult times."
It is no surprise that Asif chose to mention his franchise Islamabad United in his Tweet as they stuck with him even as his opinion on him remained divided for a place in the national team. For years, he had been performing well in the domestic league but failing to translate the same form at international cricket.
However, there shouldn't be a single person in Pakistan who will doubt his credibility as a finisher. Asif Ali has silenced his critics for now and he has chosen the biggest stage of T20 cricket to do so- the World Cup- where the world is watching his story unfold.
Notably, Asif had lost his two-year-old daughter Noor Fatima to cancer in May 2019 and while he was in and out of the national team as fans and pundits debate, the 30-year-old kept his calm and only answered with his performances.
In the ongoing T20 World Cup too, he backed his strength by telling experienced Shoaib Malik not to worry about leaving him work to do against New Zealand while sending Shadab Khan back to retain strike for the 19th over against Afghanistan.
And then he got the better of Karim Janat, the inexperienced medium-pacer from Afghanistan. With 24 runs needed from final 12 deliveries, he started with a straight six over the bowler's head, hit one back-of-a-length ball over midwicket to clear the shorter boundary and finished it off two successive sixes over wide long-off to finish off the run chase.
The entire Pakistan is suddenly behind Asif now and they all want to him to carry on with the form and help Pakistan lift the World Cup.