Pakistan opener has been included in T20I squad for Bangladesh series
With only three days left in the first match of the T20I series against Bangladesh, Ahsan Ali and Amad Butt are optimistic to leave a mark at the international level. The two were among three uncapped players named in the 15-player line-up for the three home T20Is, which will be played in Lahore on January 24, 25 and 27.
Talking to Test cricketer Shan Masood in an exclusive interview, the pair reflected on how it will look to take inspiration from the performances in the domestic events.
Ahsan impressed in the last edition of the HBL Pakistan Super League in 2018 as he scored 178 runs in eight matches batting at the top of the order for Quetta Gladiators. The 26-year-old scored 131 runs at a strike rate of just under 149 in the National T20 Cup in October, which pressed his case further for selection.
In the same tournament, Amad, who turned out for Balochistan, the eventual finalists, scored 80 runs at a strike-rate of 170 and took 10 wickets at an economy-rate of 7.62. The 24-year-old was part of Pakistan’s squad that won the ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup in Bangladesh in November.
When Shan asked which performances, in particular, they would take inspiration from, Ahsan said: “Our qualifier against Peshawar Zalmi [in the last season] is a memorable contest for me. I played a crucial role in my side’s win by scoring 46 [his highest score that tournament] over the course of a crucial [111-run] partnership with Shane Watson. I had not played the last two matches so I was under a lot of pressure.”
Amad recalled the semi-final of the ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup against the archrivals, India.
“At one stage in our match against India, we were almost out of the game. Then suddenly our fielding clicked and we got a run-out. I had to defend eight off the last over and their main batsman was at the crease. You know, matches against India are full of pressure as people take a keen interest in them. I am glad that I was able to deliver in it,” said Amad.
Speaking about his fitness regime ahead of his selection in the national side, Ahsan told Shan, his teammate in the Pakistan Cricket Club and National Bank of Pakistan sides, he had given up on his favourite dish Biryani along with rice, roti and sweet dishes to meet the desired fitness levels.
“There has been a significant change in the past 31 days since I have been at the NCA. I used to eat Biryani a lot, but I have given up on it. I have also stopped eating rice, roti, and sweet dishes as we have to take light diets,” he said.
Recalling the moment when he was informed about his selection for the Pakistan national men’s team, Ahsan said: “No matter how much I emphasis on it, I won’t be able to put my happiness in words. Every player wants to play for Pakistan. I am blessed that I have gotten the opportunity to play alongside those players whom I once used to desire to meet.”
Amad told Shan: “I was in Mardan when I got to know. To know that I am about to achieve my goal of playing for Pakistan was an extraordinary feeling, which cannot be explained. It adds extra responsibility because you want to do something for your country. I am praying to God to help me play a role in my country’s win in the upcoming matches, even if it is by scoring a single.”
The first ball of the first T20I on Friday is scheduled to be delivered at 2pm (PST).