Saad Ali looks to stand out as a Gladiator in PSL

Saad Ali

After dominating the top bowlers of the country in difficult playing conditions with a Duke ball in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Saad Ali is looking forward to proving his worth in the Pakistan Super League (PSL). “I am looking to perform in the PSL and prove my worth in the shortest format of the game,” he said. Saad, who played for UBL, struck 957 runs at an average of 68.35 in ten matches and remained the only batsman in the tournament to maintain an average of above 50. “I heard that pitches were poor and duke balls caused the problems this year, the conditions were challenging, strangely, I was the top-scorer in this season,” he said. “I did not have any such thing in my mind, I just focused on my game and topped the chart with 957 runs,” he added.

Saad Ali, who has admired South African batting maestro Herschelle Gibbs, was expecting to be picked even during the season of the league, but he was not. However, he has finally caught the eyes of Quetta Gladiators, “I don’t know why I was ignored, I was among the top performers, it was up to them whom to select.”

The emerging batsman started playing cricket in the streets of Karachi before joining Malir Cantonment club at an age of 14 or which was in Zone 4 of Karachi. Despite playing in the club, he did not quit playing tape-ball cricket. “I kept playing street cricket even after joining the club, but occasionally as coaches advise batsmen to play tape ball cricket,” he shared.

Belonging to a cricketing family, where his father played for State Life department, he never faced any resistance from his family for pursuing cricket as his career. “I haven’t seen much hurdles in my way till now, one of the reasons for that is I always had full backing of my family, my father used to play cricket for State Life department, I used to go to watch my father’s matches and this is from where I got the passion for cricket.” he stated.

Saad Ali had a smooth start to his career, he was the top performer among his peers and did not face any hurdle till he reached the U-19 level. “I played U-15 from zone 4 and scored 150+ runs on my debut, I kept playing then, there were U-16 trials in 2007, I got selected and finished on 3rd overall in Pakistan at the U-16 level. I got a call for Pakistan U-16 camp for which I went to Lahore. Upon my return, I got selected in U-19 for Zone 4 in district. I captained Zone 4 in district competitions, we went on to win the championship,” he told.

He played another season for the Zone 4, but then he realized that he is not getting the deserved push and he had to do something about it. “Players from Zone 4 were not getting enough attention, the authorities of the zone were not taking enough interest in their players, and they did not know which their star players, which players have potential,” he shared. “I had an offer from Azam Khan to play from Zone 6 from Pakistan Cricket Club, so I switched the zone.”

It was Ali’s second year at the U-19 regional level where he scored 500+ runs. In the next season, he felt that he had to stand out this year otherwise his progress may become stagnant. However, it was not that easy. “I was determined to do something special in my last year [of U-19] otherwise it would have been very difficult for me to advance in the circuit,” he told. He did not find it easy to score freely, but he stayed focus and manage to post a record that he still holds. “I was leading Karachi, I scored a triple century against PIA at the U-19 level and I still hold that record.”

Saad Ali has played Youth Asia Cup, toured South Africa and featured the U-19 World Cup in Australia under Babar Azam’s captaincy. As per the youngster, he learned different tricks of the trade during the stint such as adjusting into different playing conditions. “I learned a lot during U-19 World Cup, it was fun, I saw how cricket is being played in other countries, how we adjust in different playing conditions,” he told.

He made his First Class debut in 2012 for Karachi, where he was coached by the legendary Tauseef Ahmed. His first experience at that level of cricket was forgettable as he found hard to score against experienced bowlers. “The bowlers in first cricket were well-learned, they knew to ball with strategy, unlike the bowlers at U-19 level, where only touching the ball could give you easy runs. At the first class level, you have to earn each run,” he said. However, once he got settled in that format of the game, there was no looking back and eventually, he emerged as the highest scorer in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.

Pakistan’s national team skipper, Sarfraz Ahmed is the captain of Quetta Gladiators, he has successfully led Quetta Gladiators in the first two seasons of the league, where they ended up being runner-ups. The wicketkeeper-batsman is quite animated as the skipper. Saad has played under Sarfraz Ahmed in Pakistan Cricket Club and he mentioned how aggressive he is while captaining the club side. “Sarfraz Ahmed scolds when he is captain, but he does it for the betterment of the team, we don’t mind it. He has improved a lot at the international level, he is much aggressive at the club level.”

Saad Ali batsman believes that Quetta Gladiators can break the barrier this time and emerge as the winner. He feels that if Gladiators have contested in the final with full strength, the result might have been different. “Last year we missed out on the trophy as our international players did not feature the final of the league, however, this time we will try to reach the final once again and win it too,” the determined youngster mentioned.