From a Factory Worker to a Star - The Story of Anwar Ali's rise to International Cricket

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Anwar Ali
Anwar Ali is celebrated as the next Abdul Razzaq for Pakistan. (Photo Source: AFP)

From a Factory Worker to a Star – The Story of Anwar Ali’s rise to International Cricket: Anwar Ali’s blitz against the world’s number T20 side was nothing short of sensational clean hitting but life was not always kind to him. Anwar Ali’s father died when he was of a tender age. Being the only bread winner, he was forced to work in a factory at 200/day wage as a socks-presser. Little Anwar thought cricket as his life. He spent his spare time playing tape-ball cricket in the streets of Orangi Town, Karachi and remaining in touch with the love of his life.

“I used to get Rs. 200 per day and that wasn’t enough for our family,” said Anwar in an interview. “At times, my mother couldn’t even spare Rs50 for me given the tight budget she ran the house on.”

Anwar’s lucky break came when he was drafted into Zone VI’s under-19 side after impressing the selectors with the six deliveries he bowled at the trials. “They asked me to come for regular practice but, given the situation at home, I had to do double shifts at times. On hearing this, the coaches Azam Khan and Zafar Ahmed agreed to hand me a contract worth Rs 4,600 per month. From that day, I never looked back.”

Anwar Ali was taken to National Cricket Academy, Lahore for further trials. Sadly, he couldn’t afford a proper pair of cricket shoes and played mostly with ‘joggers’ and ‘chappal’. Aaqib Javed then gave him a pair a shoes that he used for the season.

Within 15 months, consistent performances at zonal and regional levels earned him a call to the national U19 squad and went to the World Cup in Sri Lanka. He proved his selection by taking 5/34 against New Zealand U19s but his best was yet to come. It was an India-Pakistan final, though at the U19 level but still, a war. Pakistan succumbed to Piyush Chawla’s leg-spinners and was 109 all out, 17 contributed by Anwar. With the ball in his hand in the next innings, he swung and ball in-and-out yards from outside the off-stump and reduced India to 9/6 at one stage. He finished his spell with 5/35 that had Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja as victims and was named the Man-of-the-Match in the final. The video of his heroics is still a YouTube hit.

After the world cup, he joined Pakistan International Airlines as a cricketer, replacing his idol, Umar Gul. He scored 159 runs and took 29 wickets in the seven matches he played in his debut FC season. He took 40 and 38 wickets in his next two seasons. With lots of hype surrounding him, Anwar Ali finally made his international debut in a twenty-20 against Zimbabwe but remained wicket-less and didn’t get to bat. He was sent back to the labyrinths of domestic cricket and was asked to perform.

There were times of depression in his life when he thought to shun cricket in search of a better livelihood and many claimed that his whole cricketing career would only be the 5-minute clip of him dismantling India. The same video was the reason he kept going.

I’ve saved that video on my phone. My bowling in the final has definitely been the best performance of my career. Whenever I’m down or not performing well, I watch that video to get inspiration.”

It was in 2013 when he was called back to the national side with strong domestic performances to his name and he did took the opportunity with both hands, scoring 43 in a low total and dismissing Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers to earn the Man-of-the-Match on his ODI debut – one of only nine Pakistanis. From that day on, Anwar Ali has been a regular feature of Pakistan’s limited overs squads and fans and experts tip him to be the next Azhar Mahmood and/or Abdul Razzaq for Pakistan.

“It’s not easy to emulate the performances of Razzaq and Azhar Mahmood but I’ve worked really hard in every aspect after Mudassar Nazar [former NCA director] told me that I have what it takes to become a top all-rounder. That, now, is my aim in life.”

On August 1, 2015, Anwar Ali came at no. 9 to smash 46 runs in just 17 balls to give Pakistan an unexpected T20 series win over Sri Lanka. His were the highest runs scored by any batsman batting at no. 9 in international T20s.

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