Winning the Pakistan Cricket Board’s Best T20 Player Of The Year Award and retaining the Number 1 ranking in the same format, Imad Wasim has an edge over both his compatriots and the opposition.
His role as the main strike bowler in the recently concluded WXI series was enhanced by a more than effective economy rate, as well as a few catches off his teammates’ bowling. He seems unfazed by Indian pacer Jasprit Bumrah being hot on his heels and only five points behind him in the ICC rankings.
Former PCB coach Waqar Younis was both effusive in his praise and critical of Imad Wasim’s bowling. He said as the latter does not spin the ball, coach Mushtaq Ahmed tried to remedy this with him in the nets. He did say Imad’s accuracy results in wickets, but also added that he would either find it difficult to get into the Test squad or not play Tests at all. Imad was not aware of the commentary during the final match but recovered sufficiently to give a gracious answer. “I’ll work hard, not only as a bowler but a batsman too. Whatever Waqar bhai says is for the betterment of players. I aim to get into Tests too.”
Imad’s pick by Stellenbosch Kings in Cricket South Africa’s T20 Global League, was met with ripples of excitement amongst Pakistani fans based in the beautiful Cape vineyards. However, with the probability of the West Indies touring Pakistan in November, Imad and fellow player Fakhar Zaman are set to miss perhaps the beginning of the T20 GL. CSA chief Haroon Lorgat feels it is an issue that can be resolved easily. Imad Wasim perhaps mindful of last week’s WXI captained by his Stellenbosch captain Faf Du Plessis is equally optimistic “The Windies tour has three T20s only, the schedule will be manageable.”
The WXI had several South African players, of whom batsman Hashim Amla, got the better of the Pakistani bowlers in the second T20. Appearing to read Imad Wasim’s bowling better than other international batsmen before him, one wonders if Pakistan were to play South Africa more often, what a fine contest it would turn out to be. Imad laughs off the query. He says that given both players’ support of Pakistan cricket, he is enthused about playing under Faf Du Plessis in the T20 GL and trying to get Amla out is a challenge he looks forward to.
Throughout the past year, Imad Wasim has received flak about his batting. On the instances when he was pushed up the order, most recently in his second match for Jamaica Tallawahs in this season’s edition of the Caribbean Premier League, he was expected to perform suddenly at higher positions, then dropped when he failed to score. Although he always declines to be drawn on which is his favoured batting position, he did say “If you look at the WXI series, I did not face many balls. I need more exposure to be consistent.”
Looking at his career graph over the past 18 months, Imad Wasim has done well in England, where he played a lot of league cricket before hitting the big time. To be fair to him, he also did well in his very first stint in the Caribbean. He took slightly longer to adjust to the UAE but with – at that time – a career best 5-14 in Dubai against the West Indies in 2016 and an improved performance in this year’s Pakistan Super League, he has mastered these pitches too. Careful analysis of his stats, appear to hint at an awareness and subsequent improvement of what could be termed his weaker areas. In January 2018, Pakistan will be touring New Zealand where he had a relatively insipid series almost two years ago. “Looking ahead to our busy international schedule, I have been power hitting in the nets and the ball is coming off the bat nicely. My ambition is to be the world’s best all-rounder.”
Pakistan’s pacer Mohammad Amir was not a part of the WXI series, yet the Pakistan bowling unit worked in complete sync with one another. Imad feels having internal competition for bowling places makes individual players achieve more. “My job gets easier when they get wickets, because my job is to contain.”
Imad Wasim is always amicable with the press but we could not let him go without aiming a beamer in his direction. In the WXI practice match it was Sarfraz XI v Imad XI. In a low scoring match, Imad XI defeated the former by seven runs. Does this mean Imad Wasim is now destined to be the vice-captain of the T20 team? He laughs but as expected, takes the discreet route. “It was a practice game and I was asked to captain one side, that was it.”
In the long term though, the No1 ranked T20 bowler has set his sights on more elevated heights.