Mohammad Hasnain at top echelons of cricket with 150 km/h and counting

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https://indianexpress.com/article/s...f-cricket-with-150-km-h-and-counting-5736404/


Mohammad Hasnain at top echelons of cricket with 150 km/h and counting

How does Pakistan keep producing fast bowlers on an assembly line? Beef, DNA, Imran are often cited as chief reasons. However, as Hasnain’s story shows, it’s down to a nation’s obsession, patience and care


One evening seven Ramzans ago, Mohammad Hussain, saw a “miracle” that changed his life. Like most streets across Pakistan, the one facing his ‘cattle feed’ shop in Hirabad, Hyderabad, too was gloriously lit for the post-iftaar tape-ball cricket tournament. Once a club cricketer himself, Hussain, now in his late 50s, saw his youngest son Hasnain, 12, join the bunch of excited street cricketers. He had never seen his son play. Hussain’s struggle to raise a family of six had made him turn his back squarely on the game.


The father’s interest in the street match grew with each ball his son bowled. The elfish opening bowler would start his spell with a ‘three-wicket’ maiden. Hussain couldn’t believe his eyes. “The batsman couldn’t sight the ball. Three balls missed the stumps. Baki teen bowled maare (The rest were clean-bowled). He was very small but his run-up had rhythm, his action was clean. I was in a state of shock,” says the raconteur par excellence, from his home in Sindh, Pakistan.

Not missing any detail, Hussain recalls how he stepped out of his shop and walked over to his son. “I asked him, ‘Beta, did anybody teach you how to bowl?’ There are many old cricketers in Hirabad, I thought, someone would have given him tips. He answered innocently, ‘No Abbu, this is how I have always bowled’.”

His son’s answer took Hussain back to his playing days and that sagely maxim he had often heard on Pakistan’s always-vibrant club scene. “They say, fast bowlers can’t be made, they are born. You can change a bit of run-up, a bit of action, that’s all. Speed kudrati hoti hai (Speed is natural).” Hussain knew his son was ‘special’. As a father, and a one-time cricketer in Pakistan, it was his duty to nurture him. From that day, cricket made a comeback into his life. Hussain was hooked again.


It’s this ‘speed gift’ that has fast-tracked Hasnain to the top echelons of cricket. He was a club cricketer at 12, a Pakistan Under-19 player at 17, a Pakistan Super League pacer at 18 and now a World Cupper at 19. The big break into the squad of 15 for England was on the back of the much-publicised 151 kph thunderbolt he bowled for Quetta Gladiators in the PSL this March.

Pakistan, historically, has a weakness for speed demons. They make them jump the queue, put them on a pedestal. They even vote them into the Prime Minister’s office. In Pakistan, you never walk alone if you can bowl fast. Hasnain missed the U-19 World Cup due to injury but the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) didn’t abandon him.

Enter Mudassar Nazar, the former Pakistan all-rounder, now in charge of the PCB Academy, aka the Pakistan Pace Factory. A respected junior coach, Mudassar’s professorial tone and economy of words make him the perfect mentor for adrenaline-charged boys with 150-kph dreams. He ensured Hasnain didn’t rush his rehabilitation. Hussain is indebted to the system that supported his son. “The PCB spent close to Rs 25 lakh on Hasnain. They paid his medical bills, they would often fly him down to his home, they even hired a trainer to travel with him,” he says.

Mudassar sees this as a wise investment in a valuable asset. “He bowls quick. No coach can give you pace. All a coach can do is tinker with your action, make you strong, but they need to have the will to bowl fast. You are born with that,” he says.

While he was injured, Hasnain would meet another of his benefactors, who like Mudassar values the virtue of pace. Pakistan’s leading industrialist and Quetta Gladiators owner Nadeem Omar, 62, still loves wearing his flannels and is a regular on veterans’ tours. A sports philanthropist and cricket romantic, Omar signed up Hasnain even when he wasn’t fully fit. “Our scouts went to a tournament, Hasnain was injured at that time. He had already played for Pakistan U-19 and we had heard about his pace. So we signed him. Gradually, he got stronger. He got Man-of-the-Match awards, he bowled that 150 kph ball. He is quick,” Omar says. Once again, it’s the speed they all talk about.

It’s been close to a month since his son made the World Cup cut. Hussain, by now, has got used to media queries. Still, the interest from across the border surprises him. Not well travelled, but the father is worldly wise. He is a confident man, unfazed by the sudden spotlight. He talks about the weather, his family’s roots in Alwar, Rajasthan, and his business.

“We’ve this kuttar wali machine,” he says. “Woh makai aur baajre ka jo ghaas hota hai, this machine cuts it, so that it can be fed to cows, buffaloes and goats. Hasnain was the youngest, we didn’t force him to be at the shop. It’s only during Bakra Id, days before the kurbani, when there’s a rush to buy cattle feed, that he used to come over and help.”

For the rest of the time, Hasnain, about eight years old then, would sit in front of the television and marvel at the pacers in Pakistan colours.


One evening at home, the father asked his son: “Why is it that whenever I come home you are watching cricket?” Hussain recalls the rest of the conversation. “He pointed to the pacers on the screen. Don’t remember if it was Waqar, Sami or Shoaib Akhtar. He said I want to bowl like them.”

The one-time wicketkeeper, who switched to pace bowling after an injury, told his son that the path he was dreaming to take wasn’t easy. “I told him, Allah ne ek hi Waqar banaya hai, ek hi Wasim banaya hai, ek hi Akhtar banaya hai. You can’t be them. Pace bowling is hard work. Woh upar waale ki den hoti hai.”

After that talk, Hussain thought he had reasonably de-romanticised pace bowling for his son. He couldn’t be more wrong. Hasnain continued to stare at his heroes on the screen and kept pestering his father to take him to the cricket club near their home. Hussain kept delaying the club visit, he had other worries in life.

That was until he saw his son bowl. On that Ramzan evening of 2012, under the glow of halogen bulbs, Hussain saw the light. The next morning, the father took the son to his old club. Hussain’s one-time team-mates were coaches now. They asked the 12-year-old to bowl. Within minutes, the seasoned pros gathered around Hussain with quizzical looks on their faces. “They asked me, ‘Where has your son been training before this?’ I said, ‘Nowhere’.

They couldn’t believe what they were seeing. In front of them was a natural pacer with raw pace,” says the proud father.

From that day, the two, father and son, were inseparable. The elder sons would now man the kuttar wali machine as the father got busy with the pace prodigy. Hussain gets emotional when he talks about the sacrifices the family made to groom Hasnain. “My two elder sons and my daughter, they knew the family’s youngest needed to be the strongest too. Apne bhag ka dudh ise pila dete the.”

Hasnain certainly needed the extra milk. Hussain’s training schedule was unforgiving. “We would start the day with a 8-km run at Qasim Park. Later in the afternoon, we would be at the stadium at around 2 pm. I would carry three of his extra T-shirts with me,” he says.

Hussain has a way with words and an eye for detail. He paints a graphic picture of Hasnain’s peak summer afternoon training session at Hyderabad’s Niaz Stadium. “The temperature would be around 46 to 47 degrees. Dopahar ke do baje, chamakti dhoop ke neeche, woh 5 round lagata tha. This would be followed by sprints. When he would take off his shirt, I would have to rinse it. The sweat from the shirt would drip like it was soaked in water overnight. He would change before his next routine — 10 overs of target bowling. And finally, he would wear the third shirt before he bowled 10 overs to the various batsmen at the nets. By the time we would be walking out of the ground exhausted, we would hear the azaan for the maghrib namaz,” he says, the strain in his voice conveying the hardship his son had to go through to cross the 150kph barrier.

Fast bowling wasn’t only about crowds cheering during the long run-up, fans swooning over those long flowing tresses, stumps flying; on most days it was about three drenched T-shirts and half a bucket of sweat.

Mudassar has had three stints at the NCA, Lahore, and has virtually groomed every bowler that has raised Pakistan’s pace speedometer to a new high. From Shoaib Akhtar to Mohammad Amir to Hasnain, the 63-year-old has seen them all. He likes talking about the daredevils with high pain thresholds and short shelf life. “It hurts the body when you are hurling a ball at 90mph. If you don’t have the will, you can’t do it. Only a few have that will. It is not easy to be a fast bowler. But at the same time, when they shatter the stumps and they go flying… well,” he tails off as he fumbles for words to express cricket’s most intoxicating sight.

Mudassar, on whom the great Imran Khan banked for strategic inputs, says he still gets goose pimples when he sees a freshman with cannonball pace. Such is the pull of his workplace that he is here seven days a week. “Some times I am here even when I don’t need to be. Even if there’s no one at the academy I come here,” says the coach manning Pakistan’s most productive assembly line.

He calls Hasnain a work in progress, someone who can bowl even faster. In Pakistan, the process to bowling fast is a life-long pursuit. “He needs to sort out his run-up since he is losing his rhythm. His strides are pretty lengthy. Waqar had the same problem at an early age. He changed and got quicker. A bit of tinkering with his run-up and who knows,” he says.

Mudassar goes on to talk about the other “four to five pacers” he trains at the NCA who all happen to be below 18 but can bowl close to 90mph. “We have quite a battery at the moment. We aren’t strong in batting but pacers are coming through. There is Nasim Khan, there’s Muhammad Musa … there are many.”

A Youtube search throws up several videos of the two. Nasim, not yet 18, is a wiry boy with a complicated release and a deadly short ball. They are calling him Pakistan’s Bumrah. There seem to be more videos of him injuring batsmen than taking wickets. There is one where a batsman is slowly back-tracking towards the square-leg umpire, even before Nasim lets the ball go. The mean young pacer is not just generating pace, but fear too. Musa is more conventional. He bowls the off-stump line, reverses and, of course, regularly touches 90 mph.

Mudassar also mentions a boy that PSL franchise Lahore Qalandars signed last year. He had no hardball experience but touched 150 kph during the PSL. That bowler is Haris Rauf, a Rawalpindi boy.

His is a charming story. Haris was a legend on Pakistan’s popular tape-ball circuit — cricket’s street version played with a tennis ball wrapped in electric tape. For a price, he could be hired by teams entering those thousands of big money flood-light tournaments played across Pakistan round the year. Ramzan is when the stakes go higher. Haris had his own sponsor too.

The story goes that Haris, on a lark, decided to accompany his friend for the Rawalpindi to Gujranwala road trip to be at the Qalandars trials. After the close-to four-hour drive, they reached the venue to find the stadium’s main gates shut. With close to 20,000 aspirants already registering, the Qalandars talent scouts, headed by former Pakistan pacer Aaqib Javed, didn’t want more.

Haris and his friend weren’t going back home. They broke open a back door and joined the queue. There is a long video on Youtube in which Haris is narrating his trial story: “During lunch time, they gave everybody chhole chawal; me and my friend didn’t have them. I told him you can’t bowl fast after chhole, it bloats your stomach. I bowled 92 mph and was picked by Aaqib bhai.” It takes more than just steely resolve for a Pindi boy to say no to chhole.

The Qalandars’ website says they have screened 1,13,000 — mostly tape-ball bowlers — in search of pacers with raw pace. The tape-ball circuit is Pakistan’s unorganised sector that supports the organic growth of the hot ‘pace jocks’. Quetta owner Nadeem says that on the tape-ball circuit, you are nothing if you can’t bowl fast. “Every street, every mohalla, there is tape-ball cricket. Us game mein aapki pehchan hi fast bowling hai,” he says. Bowling with the soft tennis ball strengthens your shoulders, makes you think of new ways to dismiss batsmen, forces you to be street-smart.

While Hasnain’s father asked him to stay away from tape-ball cricket, for Haris that was the only game he played till he reached the Qalandars trials. However, their paths would eventually meet. In a nutshell, if you have it in you to bowl fast, it doesn’t matter which ball you bowl with, you are likely to get spotted.

For years, the world has wondered how Pakistan always has a rich reserve of teenaged fast bowlers. Beef, DNA and Imran are often quoted as reasons. However, the journeys of Hasnain and Haris offer better answers.
 
The selectors should have let him develop more before picking him for WC. He is very raw and got punished by the Poms. You really don’t Know, he can still end up having a good WC so let’s judge after the WC.
 
He is up against the best batting line-up in the world, in their own den. I'm disappointed with his pace, but he will only get better. This experience will definitely do wonders for him.
 
He is tall, strong and has pace but he is no Waqar or even Amir of old, who will burst into international cricket while being so raw. Even Waqar and Amir had played 1-2 full session of QAT before inducted into National team. Hasnain needs 2-3 session of full first class seasons.
 
His run-up was pointed to as having issues in the PSL. Yet we, the fans can see it, and our bowling coach can't. Instead he sits there with his Sky Sports commentary earpiece taking tips from others.
 
If he was selected just because of his pace, then he was massively overrated!

Touching 90mph is not something that should be considered as something special. No wonder he's not troubling the batsmen
 
If he was selected just because of his pace, then he was massively overrated!

Touching 90mph is not something that should be considered as something special. No wonder he's not troubling the batsmen

He's not troubling the batsman? Then I have must have watched some entirely different games. He was troubling the batsmen more than any other Pak fast bowler in his first ODI here. Though he lost his radar in the last one.
 
Very interesting story. So he's from Heerabad, a dense Urdu-speaking locality of Hyderabad, where coaches from Karachi often stop. I wish he, and Haris Rauf, grow as pacers and can form the backbone of the country's bowling for a decade at least
 
Overhyped in the pace department. Nowhere near express... will have to work really hard to touch 150kph consistently. Just hitting 150 once in a blue moon doesn't mean anything.

God I miss the express pace days.
 
Overhyped in the pace department. Nowhere near express... will have to work really hard to touch 150kph consistently. Just hitting 150 once in a blue moon doesn't mean anything.

God I miss the express pace days.

He's just turned 19. Can build up on his pace with right work. Shoaib didn't hit 161 at 19, it took him a good five or so years in international cricket to reach peak pace
 
Hassan couldn't bowl 145+ 2 years now He Bowls It Regularly.
If You are paying attention to Games Pretty much All games Including Australia .
Hussain Starts Expensive . Really Expensive But He Always made Recovery at the End .That Shows He Is just Inexperienced .He Is A Good Bowler and Will Be better Bowler .but Right now he Was Definitely not needed .USK Was Better Choice Dont Know Why People criticize Him Just bcz of his t20 performances you cant discard him in odis.
 
Well written article. Thanks for sharing.
 
Two words - Mohammed Sami

Sami didnt improve much but, how can one be so sure that Hasnaian is gonna be same in terms of his skills and accuracy throughout his career? He is just 18-19, if he puts in hard yards than you never know how far he can go. One player starting at the same age with and some same weaknesses doesnt mean they will end up same.
 
Overhyped in the pace department. Nowhere near express... will have to work really hard to touch 150kph consistently. Just hitting 150 once in a blue moon doesn't mean anything.

God I miss the express pace days.

He is just 19 so there is some hope...
 
I have been saying this for a long time. Do not believe in the PSL IPL pace hype. He was struggling to consistently hit 87mph/140kph against England. Yeah he can sometimes hit 145k, but to achieve better line and length speed had to be reduced below 140k.
 
A grand total of 1 ball over 150 . . enough said!

There is talent and definitely something to work with . . needs to go to domestic . . get stronger . . get his average pace up . . learn some skills . . too early to be playing international cricket
 
Very good & inspirational story. Keep working hard boy & Inshallah you will succeed. I hope this pathetic coaching combo of rude arthur & incompetent azhar will be fired soon & someone will take the charge who could take the most out of you.
 
Hasnain hasnt got experience. He is supposed to be smashed around in WC. He should have been groomed much earlier for WC
 
He's just turned 19. Can build up on his pace with right work. Shoaib didn't hit 161 at 19, it took him a good five or so years in international cricket to reach peak pace

Shoaib was express! Lets not compare him with Shoaib; Shoaib was bowling faster then Hasnain even at the end of his career with his dodgy knees. Plus, Shoaib had a brain; something that the current Pakistani bowlers lack unfortunately.
 
Simple useless at the moment need time before he is ready to play high-level cricket. I have not seen anything from him that is impressive. Shaheen on same tracks was more impressive if not more successful.
 
Two words - Mohammed Sami

Sami actually had a lot more talent, but his downfall was his lack of bowling brain and his inability to respond to a batsman with momentum on the attack.
 
I don't understand the Sami comparison.

Sami had a lot of ability as a bowler but he was useless under pressure and had a poor thought process which became evident over the years as his career progressed.

Hasnain is just starting his career and hasn't shown any signs of wilting under pressure. He bowled well in his first season of PSL, and in the biggest match of his career to date, the PSL final, he was the man of the match.

His issues with inconsistency regarding his line and erratic pace is to do with technical issues with his action which will hopefully be resolved over the next couple of years. I don't see any comparison with Sami's mental breakdowns.

The only similarity is that they're both fast-bowlers from Sindh, that's pretty much it.
 
I don't understand the Sami comparison.

Sami had a lot of ability as a bowler but he was useless under pressure and had a poor thought process which became evident over the years as his career progressed.

Hasnain is just starting his career and hasn't shown any signs of wilting under pressure. He bowled well in his first season of PSL, and in the biggest match of his career to date, the PSL final, he was the man of the match.

His issues with inconsistency regarding his line and erratic pace is to do with technical issues with his action which will hopefully be resolved over the next couple of years. I don't see any comparison with Sami's mental breakdowns.

The only similarity is that they're both fast-bowlers from Sindh, that's pretty much it.

Also Sami had more natural ability wwhen he started with his swing etc. Hasnain is a more of a seam bowler but is a quick learner and good under pressure.
 
The kid definitely has talent and may even go on to have a long fulfilling career. My only beef is that he has been thrown into the deep end too early despite not having performances on the domestic circuit to bank on. Despite the weakness of the domestic structure it is still the best thing we have at the moment, if you are not developing players there where will you develop them?



Looks too raw at the moment and needed atleast two years in domestics to actually learn how to set up a batsman and/or bowl defensively when batsmen come hard at you.
 
Shoaib was express! Lets not compare him with Shoaib; Shoaib was bowling faster then Hasnain even at the end of his career with his dodgy knees. Plus, Shoaib had a brain; something that the current Pakistani bowlers lack unfortunately.

Shoaib was lucky that he was surrounded by wasim & waqar, his first foreign tour was south africa where he took his first 5fer so he was lucky again. What if shoaib started his career on UAE tracks followed by england (todays) against the most brutal batting side.

At the end of his career Shoaib was not bowling that fast what you are saying, most of his deliveries were in b/w 136 to 142. In his last WC a part of jaywardane wicket his performances was not convincing too. It is injustice that you are comparing a 19 year old young boy with someone who played 15 years of international cricket.
 
It is as a few people pointed out a well written article

I did have to check it wasn't an April Fool's Joke in a publication called 'Indian Express'
 
Shoaib was lucky that he was surrounded by wasim & waqar, his first foreign tour was south africa where he took his first 5fer so he was lucky again. What if shoaib started his career on UAE tracks followed by england (todays) against the most brutal batting side.

At the end of his career Shoaib was not bowling that fast what you are saying, most of his deliveries were in b/w 136 to 142. In his last WC a part of jaywardane wicket his performances was not convincing too. It is injustice that you are comparing a 19 year old young boy with someone who played 15 years of international cricket.

I think his original comparison was Shoaib when he first came onto the scene. Shoaib was express from the get go. Bowling around 155kph consistently. That's the difference between express and fast. That was a totally different level. I also think Shoaib was a very intelligent cricketer from the beginning.
 
Shoaib was lucky that he was surrounded by wasim & waqar, his first foreign tour was south africa where he took his first 5fer so he was lucky again. What if shoaib started his career on UAE tracks followed by england (todays) against the most brutal batting side.

At the end of his career Shoaib was not bowling that fast what you are saying, most of his deliveries were in b/w 136 to 142. In his last WC a part of jaywardane wicket his performances was not convincing too. It is injustice that you are comparing a 19 year old young boy with someone who played 15 years of international cricket.

At the end of his career, Shoaib was probably touching 37-38 and bowling at 140-145 km/hr is not bad at that age.
 
I have been saying this for a long time. Do not believe in the PSL IPL pace hype. He was struggling to consistently hit 87mph/140kph against England. Yeah he can sometimes hit 145k, but to achieve better line and length speed had to be reduced below 140k.

He is only 19, also his bowling action is not very stream lined right now and needs improvement, it probably costs him some consistency in pace.
 
4 wickets for Hasnain in PSL 5 first game - looking really good!
 
although he took 4 wickets, but those wickets were just mishits by the batsmen.

Yes he has pace, but there was nothing really special about him where you could say that he took wickets due to his own skill and not the batsmens mistake
 
although he took 4 wickets, but those wickets were just mishits by the batsmen.

Yes he has pace, but there was nothing really special about him where you could say that he took wickets due to his own skill and not the batsmens mistake
Much more impressive than the four wickets, were the 13 dots delivered by him. For a young express pace bowler with minimal control, that is impressive. He bowled well, and T20 doesn't allow for conventional dismissals anyway.
 
These kids Naseem, Hasnain etc are all good but unfortunately I don’t see any of them being truly world class bowlers. Their maximum ceiling is to get to Umar Gul level.

Now don’t get me wrong a peak Umar gul level bowler is great but they form cogs in a great side. They are not the main bowlers. And if we want to be challenging for the best we need a bowler or 2 who really can break into the top rung of pacers. Australia are really lucky they have Cummins, Starc and Hazelwood all of who are in or around that top rung.
 
We're talking of T20s right. Umar Gul at his peak was a better bowler than any of Cummins, Starc and Hazelwood.
 
Speaking at the presser

"I had regrets that I could not play a game in World Cup despite being in the squad - but now my target is WT20 and I would like to be part of that and play for the team"

"I was in the NCA for the past 2.5 months where I worked with Waqar Younis, and I learnt a lot of things so I hope I can spend more time with him and learn to bowl better"
 
These kids Naseem, Hasnain etc are all good but unfortunately I don’t see any of them being truly world class bowlers. Their maximum ceiling is to get to Umar Gul level.

Now don’t get me wrong a peak Umar gul level bowler is great but they form cogs in a great side. They are not the main bowlers. And if we want to be challenging for the best we need a bowler or 2 who really can break into the top rung of pacers. Australia are really lucky they have Cummins, Starc and Hazelwood all of who are in or around that top rung.

Are you mystic meg by any chance
 
These kids Naseem, Hasnain etc are all good but unfortunately I don’t see any of them being truly world class bowlers. Their maximum ceiling is to get to Umar Gul level.

Now don’t get me wrong a peak Umar gul level bowler is great but they form cogs in a great side. They are not the main bowlers. And if we want to be challenging for the best we need a bowler or 2 who really can break into the top rung of pacers. Australia are really lucky they have Cummins, Starc and Hazelwood all of who are in or around that top rung.

How many WT20s have Starc, Cummins and Hazelwood won for Australia?
 
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