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Oct 24, 2018, 3:46:00 PM

Mohammad Abbas could be Pakistan’s most lethal option in the World Cup

Mohammad Abbas’ rags to riches story has seen him storm the cricketing world with his consistency and swing. His exploits in the recent Test series against Australia in UAE saw him rise to third in the Test rankings as the rest of the cricket world took notice of Pakistan’s latest pace sensation.

Abbas was an unheard-of name two years ago in international cricket. Hailing from a small village named Jathekey near Sambrial in Sialkot, Abbas’s journey was supposed to be no different from the thousands of other aspiring talents coming from that region.

He initially worked as a welder and an office boy in court. “My life before cricket was very challenging but those struggles helped me in cricket because when I came into the sport I had become mature enough to deal with the problems,” Abbas mentioned in an interview earlier this year.

While playing for his village side in Pakistan, Abbas soon gained a reputation of finishing games quickly with his pace and accuracy. At the age of 16, he was called up to play for the Sialkot district alongside Mohammad Asif.

The right arm pacer places Asif in high regard and considers him to be his role model alongside Glenn McGrath and James Anderson. He broke into the Sialkot’s first-class team in 2009 after guidance from his U-19 coach Shahid Anwar. Since then he has played for Pakistan Television, Khan Research Laboratories and now Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited.

Rise to stardom

Northamptonshire Steelbacks v Leicestershire Foxes - Vitality Blast - North Group - County Cricket Ground

Mohammad Abbas celebrates a wicket against Northamptonshire

The 2015-16 Quaid-E-Azam Trophy turned out to be his ticket to stardom. He outperformed every bowler that season, picking up 61 wickets in 10 games and followed it up with a better performance in the next season with 71 dismissals to put the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on high alert. Abbas made his debut against West Indies in 2017 and got Kraigg Brathwaite’s wicket with only his second ball in international Test cricket. He ended the series with 15 wickets to his name and lived up to the hype that surrounded him. 

Pakistan then toured England in May 2018 and what followed was a scintillating spell of bowling by the 28-year-old, who had to bide his time and is the textbook definition of a quintessential late bloomer. Abbas ended up playing a crucial role in Pakistan’s victory over England in the first Test with eight wickets and ended the series with the ‘Player of the Series’ award. His knack of placing the ball consistently in the same channel with just enough movement to upset the batsman is what has worked for him so well. 

When asked about his performance, Abbas said, “It is not that I have suddenly got into the team, I have been playing first-class cricket for nine years, so I know what to do.” He credits the Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood for transforming him into a force to be reckoned with in international cricket.

England v Pakistan - First NatWest Test - Day One - Lord'sMohammad Abbas in action against England

World No.3 

Abbas, of course, was an automatic selection for the recent Australian series in UAE. Unaware of what was in store for them, it’s safe to say that the Australians were completely unprepared for the Abbas test, instead opting to focus their energy on Mohammad Amir. However, Pakistan’s new kid on the block was the one who did most of the damage. He took 10 wickets in the second Test to become to second fastest Pakistan bowler to reach 50 wickets in red-ball cricket.

By the end of the series, he jumped from 14th position to third spot in the ICC rankings with career-best rating points of 829, behind only behind Kagiso Rabada and James Anderson. On the back of his Test displays, Abbas may soon be introduced into the ODI setup with the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019 just months away. Bowling great Dale Steyn has already said how he sees Abbas as a future number 1 Test bowler. However, with his unique skillset to move the ball either way as well as his experience matches in England, Abbas can have a huge bearing on the outcome of his team’s fortune in the World Cup.

Words: Ritvik Mawkin

Images: PA