Mohammad Bilal Asif
September 24, 1985, Sialkot, Punjab
Right hand bat
Right arm offbreak
Born in Sialkot, Bilal Asif made his first-class debut in 2011 at the age of 26 and only played 11 matches in his first four seasons. He had success only in 2014-15, when he played six matches and scored 310 runs, including a maiden hundred. He had begun his career during Pakistan's isolation as an international venue and was first seen on screen during the Super9 T20 Cup in May 2015, when he scored a 48-ball 114.
Asif caught the eye of the national selectors for not just his batting - he is not the most technically-sound batsman - but also his ability to bowl offspin, at a time when Pakistan had lost Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez to suspect actions. He took nine wickets in the national T20 tournament in Rawalpindi. Asif was selected for Pakistan's tour of Sri Lanka in 2015 but made his debut only during the ODI series in Zimbabwe in October. He took a five-for in his second ODI against Zimbabwe but was reported for a suspect action after the game.
That's where his international career may have ended - indeed, it has been the funeral pyre for many Pakistan cricketers over the years. However, his domestic performances had been improving, and extensive rehabilitation work he undertook alongside Mushtaq Ahmed was beginning to pay dividends. Hard work met opportunity in October 2018, when, on the supposed rank turners of the UAE, he was called up for Pakistan's Test series against Australia. As had been the case three years ago against England, the reserves were expected to be as close as he got to the side, but Shadab Khan's injury saw him thrust into the starting lineup.
What followed is likely to be his finest moment in his career, one his grandchildren will tire of hearing one day. He ripped through the Australians in little more than a session, taking six wickets for 36 as the visitors lost all ten for 60 runs. It wasn't as if wickets were being gifted to spinners, though; his teammate Yasir Shah didn't get his first till the fifth afternoon.
His remodelled action is a curios concoction of two offspinners as diverse as they come; the run-up is Arshad Khan - a slow, languid shuffle to the crease - but the wrists are tantalisingly Murali-like. It enables him to impart undiscernible disguise of his doosras, while enjoying excellent purchase for his offspin. He may never enjoy such success again or even play many more Tests, but he has played the game that makes the travails of a career worthwhile already.
Umar Farooq and Danyal Rasool
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