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Who is Faheem Ashraf?
Pakistan were staring defeat in the face at 249 for 8. But 23-year old Faheem Ashraf, coming in at No. 9, blasted an incredible 64* to take Pakistan to an improbable victory, even if it was just a warm-up match against Bangladesh ahead of the Champions Trophy. Here is what you need to know about him next time you’re at the water cooler.
Where’s he from?
He was born in Kasur, a city close to the Indian border, and about a 45-minute drive from Lahore. You might know the city for the shrine of Bulleh Shah, the celebrated Sufi poet-saint, and also as the birthplace of Noor Jehan, one of Pakistan’s most famous singers. If he plays for Pakistan, Ashraf could become another reason the city is known for – he would be the first from Kasur to play for Pakistan.
Tell me a little about his rise
Though Kasur is close to Lahore, for the PCB, the district comes into the Faisalabad region, and this is where Ashraf started his competitive cricket, playing in the inter-district Under-19 competition in 2010. He turned out for Kasur at the time as a fast bowler, picking up 10 wickets in 2010, and 15 in 2011. He was promoted to the Faisalabad Under-19 team and wasn’t able to make a major impact, taking 14 wickets, apart from 117 runs, batting with the tail.
So what caught the selectors’ eye?
In 2013, at a senior district-level tournament, he became the top wicket-taker for Kasur with 22 wickets at 11.13 and also scored 189 runs with the help of two half-centuries. Those performances won him a ticket to first-class cricket, as he broke into the Faisalabad team for the 2013-14 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.
I see. And how did that go?
Pretty good. He hit a hundred on first-class debut against Multan, at a healthy 60-plus strike rate. Since then, he has played 31 first-class matches, scoring 1207 runs at 32.62 – not a bad haul for someone selectors essentially consider a lower-order batsman. Oh, and he’s also picked up 94 wickets at 26.63. His List A numbers are decent, too, though it is with the ball that he has shone in that format: 60 wickets in 38 games, at a strike rate of 28.1.
Any other performances I should be able to reel off like I’m a selector?
He might not have compiled remarkable numbers, but with Ashraf, the cameos are the ones that are remembered. He scored 44 against WAPDA at a time when his side, HBL, was languishing at 21 for 6 in the final of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. Handily, that was in front of the selection committee last year in Karachi, and he has been on their radar since. He made it to the Pakistan ‘A’ team that played against Zimbabwe and England Lions recently, and 19 wickets in the Departmental One-Day Cup – the highest in the tournament – earlier this year meant he was pushing for an international debut.
Is he the answer to…
Pakistan’s ongoing, eternal search for an allrounder? Hold your horses just a second and take a reality check. He is, currently, a kind of leader of the tail, batting mostly between Nos. 7, 8 and 9 for his domestic sides. He averages less than 16 in the format he is likely to make his Pakistan debut in. With the ball, he is usually first or second change, unless an especially grassy pitch presents itself, when he has been known to open the bowling. His nine overs in the two warm-up games have gone for 65, without a wicket, so…
Still, don’t just take our word for it.
When he was working his way up from district level and onto the first-class scene, the current national selector and former offspinner Tauseef Ahmed was keeping an eye on him. Tauseef had a chance to monitor Ashraf closely in 2015 while at National Bank of Pakistan (he has since moved to Habib Bank). There, Ashraf made some valuable runs with the tail (271 altogether, at 38.71) and picked up 23 wickets. His ability to strike the ball clean and provide regular breakthroughs – in addition to the ferocity and confidence with which he played the hook shot – was something that stuck with Tauseef.
“I actually saw him when he was playing for NBP, and his ability to strike the ball was impressive,” Tauseef said. “What else does a team want when a batsman batting with the tail can get a run-rate between 8 and 10 an over? He has great firepower, and I have seen him doing that quite often on the domestic circuit.”