Is Mohammad Abbas the next Mohammad Asif? The next Vernon Philander? The next Glenn McGrath?

Published: October 25, 2018
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Mohammad Abbas of Pakistan reacts during day two of the Second Test match between Australia and Pakistan at Sheikh Zayed stadium on October 17, 2018 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. PHOTO: GETTY

It is happening again. Pakistan has once again unearthed a world-class talent, and yet again, the expectations are sky high. Is Mohammad Abbas the next Mohammad Asif? The next Vernon Philander? The next Glenn McGrath?

No. He is the first Abbas and it is time for him to make his own name in the game.

If you ever need proof that hard work will eventually be paid off, you should refer to the story of Abbas. At 25 years of age (just three years ago), he averaged over 30 with the ball in first-class cricket, lacked the ability to bat, and could only bowl around 80mph (miles per hour). At this stage, it would be impossible for any analyst to predict he would even make the Pakistan ‘A’ team, and Abbas probably felt the same way.

His career took a turn when he moved to the Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) department. Under KRL, Abbas took an astonishing 132 wickets at an average of 14. Under his previous first-class team, Sialkot, Abbas took 67 wickets at an average of 33.

His monumental performances in domestic cricket eventually earned him a shot playing for the ‘A’ team and soon to the national team, debuting against West Indies.

One of Abbas’s biggest fans is former Test cricket and legend, Ian Bishop. Prior to Abbas making his Test debut, I messaged Bishop privately and gave him information on Abbas. My exact words were:

“Abbas is medium fast and his strength is the ability to move the ball. He’s similar to Asif, but it will be tough to reach that level.”

Mohammad Abbas of Pakistan celebrates the wicket of Travis Head of Australia during day four of the Second Test match between Australia and Pakistan at Sheikh Zayed stadium on October 19, 2018 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photo: Getty

Just a week or so later, Abbas made his Test debut and took a wicket off his second ball, immediately impressing everyone. This led to Bishop mentioning in the commentary that he sees similarities between Abbas and Asif. He then mentioned me live on commentary, which was a proud moment. His words were:

“Big shout out to my contact in Pakistan, Haroon! He’s doing a wonderful job; he’s got all the background information.”

In the recent Test series with Australia, Abbas’s five-wicket haul in the second Test had put Pakistan in the lead. His five for 33 had Australia stunned, proving what a masterclass he really is.

Abbas has shown that you do not need extreme pace to be successful at the Test level. Pakistani fans in particular are guilty of thinking this way. They tend to only rate those who can bowl above the 85mph mark regularly; however, Abbas is proof that this is not the case. He hovers around the 80mph mark, consistently hitting a line and length. His strength is the ability to keep to a strict length, and then bowl the incoming ball, which traps batsmen leg before wicket (LBW).

Mohammad Abbas appeals and dismisses Joe Root of England during the third day of the 1st Natwest Test match between England and Pakistan at Lord’s cricket ground on May 26, 2018 in London, England. Photo: Getty

While Abbas has been nothing short of sensational early on in his career, it is important for Pakistani fans to not keep their expectations too high so soon. Abbas is a brilliant bowler, but he will not take wickets in every game. He will fail in a few games, but please do not start throwing statements that he has been ‘exposed’ when that happens. He is allowed failures, as all cricketers are.

Pakistan’s next Test series is against New Zealand, however, it is the one after that I am most looking forward to, in South Africa. The reason being that I get to watch Abbas bowl in conditions that are more suitable for fast-bowling.

Mohammad Abbas of Pakistan celebrates after dismissing Aaron Finch of Australia during day four of the Second Test match between Australia and Pakistan at Sheikh Zayed stadium on October 19, 2018 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photo: Getty

In recent times, Pakistani fans (and coaches) have labelled upcoming Pakistani cricketers as the next something. Ahmed Shehzad was initially touted as the next Sachin Tendulkar. Sharjeel Khan as the next David Warner and Babar Azam as the next Virat Kohli. It hasn’t worked out as such and in most of these cases has worked against the players.

So please, let’s call him Abbas, and not the next Asif. You can point out that his play technique is similar to Asif, but do not call him the next Asif. It puts unnecessary pressure on the player. Moreover, this type of labelling is not even seen in other countries then why do we still continue to compare our young talent with experienced players or legends?

As of now, I look forward to watching how the career of Abbas progresses.

Haroon Ahmed

Haroon Ahmed

The author is a sports writer from the United Kingdom. He tweets @hazharoon (twitter.com/hazharoon)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Patwari

    The next Mickey Mouse, the next Humpty Dumpty, the next Gopal Acharya,
    the next Donald Duck, the next Gullu Butt….the next Nawaz el Sharif bin Salman
    bin Momineen, the next Vajpayee….Recommend