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Dera Murad Jamali's young sensation making it big at Pakistan Junior League

  • Basit Ali’s video interview is available here

Lahore, 17 October 2022: One of the objectives of the Pakistan Junior League was to provide exposure to gifted teenage cricketers from far-flung areas of the country who otherwise go unnoticed. The Pakistan Junior League, on that front, has proved to be an excellent initiative as the group stage of this first of its kind tournament brought forward some outstanding talent.

One individual, who took the PJL by storm, is Basit Ali, the right-handed opener, who hails from Dera Murad Jamali.

The city of Dera Murad Jamali is located in eastern Balochistan and serves as a headquarter to Nasirabad District which has a population of less than 500,000, according to the 2017 census conducted by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

It was on the third day of the ongoing six-team tournament that the whole country and, eventually, the world got to know about Basit when he became the maiden centurion in the PJL with a superlative 102 not out at a staggering rate of 176. His incredible effort helped his side – Bahawalpur Royals – surmount Gujranwala Giants’ 179 with two balls spare.

A phone call from his father, Mohammad Ali, a former cricketer who played two T20s for Quetta Bears in 2009, made Basit’s day memorable. “My father was ecstatic when he called me and said, ‘Well played. Just continue to play like this’.”

That Basit anchored the daunting run chase underscores his cool and calm temperament at such a young age. That he had the experience of former Test cricketers Imran Farhat and Imran Tahir along with the tactical acumen of Gordon Parsons in the dressing room provided him with a roadmap on how to go about business.

“When I was padding up before the chase,” he says, “our coaches and mentors, Imran Farhat, Imran Tahir and my coach Gordon [Parsons] came to me and said that this is a chaseable target and all I have to do is take the game deep and finish it. So, my thought-process revolved around making the run chase happen by batting till the end and finishing the job for my side.”

The match went down the wire and there came a point when Bahawalpur Royals looked to be falling behind with 14 needed off eight. But, the next delivery not only brought them back in the game but also paved the way for an easy crossing of the line when Basit smoked the ball in the slot for a six over the fast bowler’s head. 

“I was aware that the bowlers at this stage resort to bowling yorkers,” he recalls. “So, I was anticipating them, but I got one in the slot. As soon as I saw it pitch there, I pounced on the opportunity and smashed it out of the ground.”

This knock followed an impressive 30-ball 54 against Hyderabad Hunters – also in a winning cause – a day earlier.

Such has been Basit’s class that he is the only batter – after the completion of the group stage on Sunday – to have surpassed the 200-run mark. He has amassed 233 runs at a brilliant average and strike rate of 58 and 152.

Basit is the eldest amongst four siblings and did his matriculation from Government Boys Special High School in Dera Murad Jamali.

It was the trips that he made to the grounds with his father in his younger days that turned this sport into a passion for Basit. “I developed my love for cricket at a young age. I used to go to cricket grounds with my father. My father is my coach and now he accompanies me to the ground. He does the throwdowns for me.”

Pakistan turned 75 in August this year and in its 70-year-long international cricket history, only one cricketer from Balochistan – Shoaib Khan, who has four T20I caps - has played for the national men’s side. Basit dreams of being the next.

“I want to represent my country. The opportunity of showcasing my talent in the PJL will definitely help me in achieving that. Of course, we have a set pathway to graduate to the top level. My focus is to improve myself and develop into a solid cricketer. I want to play the HBL Pakistan Super League next and impress everyone there so I can then don the coveted golden star on my chest.”

While the dream of playing for Pakistan may take a while to materialise, the fulfilment of his other dream of being at Pakistan’s ‘home of cricket’ gives him hope that with sheer hard work and dedication he can achieve it.

“It was my dream to play at Gaddafi Stadium. Playing under lights is a different experience altogether and it feels so good to be in the middle with the light towers on. My presence here is a testimony that dedication and hard work never go to waste. I want to say this to all the teenagers in Dera Murad Jamali that they should continue to strive and never give up on their dreams. Like me, they can also be here one day, playing at such a big stage. I also want to thank the PCB for helping us realise our dreams.”

With Bahawalpur Royals playing Gwadar Sharks tomorrow in the Qualifier, Basit will be eager to repeat his heroics and secure a berth in the final, to be played on 21 October.