Death bowling. The art of deceiving the batsman when the pressure is on and each side is either fighting for runs or struggling to contain the run rate.
Step forward medium-fast bowler Umaid Asif. In Karachi Kings’ first match of the Pakistan Super League, he was called upon when Peshawar Zalmi’s danger man Darren Sammy was capable of taking the game away. What was going through his mind at the time, how did he produce that 2-23 under pressure?“ I am a T20 specialist, so whatever task I am given, I take. I bowl dot balls, rather than trying to take a wicket.”
Umaid is not someone who has been at the forefront of talk shows or social media. He is still a bit of an enigma to fans, many of whom may not be aware of his resolute journey into the game. At the age of eight, he knew that something big had happened (1992 World Cup). In the 1996 World Cup when Pakistan lost to India in Bengaluru, he felt that he wanted to play and do something for his country.
It is apparent from his recounting of when he started to play cricket, that it was important for him to receive his father’s support before taking up the game full time. At that point, his father did not take him seriously and wanted him to complete his A-Levels. His height though, shot up during his teen years, making him all the more determined to follow his chosen career path. Subsequent to his mother’s death in 2006, his father asked all of his siblings to follow their dreams.
After joining a local club, he had to face challenging times. He worked at a call center at night, would sleep and train again before the next shift. WAPDA coaches spotted him and asked him to attend trials. Unfortunately, he developed a stiff back due to his night shift and got injured soon after his 2008 selection. The management though stood by him. He then became a part of Sialkot Stallions in 2011.
Following a relatively good run in the 2010-2011 domestic season, he believes he was in contention for the national team but the coach at the time did not select him. Asked how he views that time, he says he harbours no ill-will to anyone. He feels he utilized the time well, by practicing bowling the new ball, the semi-new ball, and the old ball.
Umaid’s 5-20 in the first T20 game against New Zealand A in Dubai in October 2018, led to an eight-wicket win for the Pakistan A side. With the changes in domestic cricket thereafter, how much did this season’s new domestic structure aid in improving his game? Like most of his peers, he feels with the combination of the kookaburra and flat tracks, there should be a bit of grass for fast bowlers so that the ball can carry. “Scoreboards in recent years are indicative of how much of advantage batsmen had.”
Fast forward to Karachi Kings. Who is the stand-out player for him?“Within this set-up, Mohammad Amir has been an inspiration. The aggression and application he puts into every game is amazing. I talk to him at nets, about how to approach different types of pitches.”
Umaid reveals that following a tough 2014, he has a vision board, which helps him map things out carefully. So how valuable is it for a player of his age, to still be aiming high at this stage of his career? “People talk a lot about me being 35. For me, it is just a number. I need to perform to prove people wrong. Actually I aim to serve my country even after I retire.”
Umaid Asif is keen on adding commentary to his list of achievements in the coming years. For the rest of this tournament though, he says Karachi Kings will rectify its errors and move forward with a lot of self-belief – very much like him.