Hasan Mohsin was, till the middle of last year, a handy legspinner at age-group tournaments in Pakistan. Then, unhappy with the returns, he switched to pace and soon began to be given the new ball on occasion. On Thursday, not yet a pace spearhead, he claimed 3 for 24 to take Pakistan to an easy win over Afghanistan in their Under-19 World Cup tournament opener.
"I was not very consistent [with legspin]," Mohsin told ESPNcricinfo. "So I decided to switch in July last year. The coach (Mohammad Masroor) also said I should bowl pace, so I started bowling with the new ball. I'm a batting allrounder, but I bowl well with the new ball so the captain relies on me. The coach and manager gave me a lot of confidence to bowl with the new ball so it helped me."
For a bowler who made the change only recently, Mohsin's bowling looks practiced. He isn't afraid to pitch the ball up to tempt top-order batsmen into the drive. After a few domestic games in Pakistan as a pacer, Mohsin tried it against Sri Lanka in a bilateral Youth ODI series last October.
As a first-change bowler, he nipped out top and middle-order batsmen. In Pakistan's next assignment, a tri-series involving Australia and New Zealand in Dubai earlier this month, Mohsin was given the new ball with Sameen Gul, and finished the series with five wickets from three matches.
When Mohsin got the new ball on Thursday morning, he single-handedly reduced Afghanistan to 29 for 3 to set up Pakistan's five-wicket win. Mohsin exploited the early morning moisture and the greenish pitch, extracted good bounce and got the ball to move away from the right-handed batsmen.
"With the new ball I like to concentrate on my line and I can swing the ball both ways," he said. "So initially I try to swing it only one side so that the batsman commits a mistake. I swing the ball away naturally, so today I was focusing on outswing right from the beginning and it got me wickets. I like to stick to one line and length to get wickets. If you restrict the runs and stick to one line and length then a batsman makes a mistake on his own."
Mohsin not only stemmed the flow of runs when Afghanistan opener Karim Janat creamed Gul for three fours in a row in the fifth over, but also picked up wickets to finish his first four overs with figures of 4-0-10-3. That included the scalp of Afghanistan captain Ihsanullah, who had scored a century only a few days ago, by inducing an outside edge that was pouched at gully.
"I like to keep a gully fielder; I barely keep any slips, maybe one," Mohsin explained after the match. "I get good outswing and the pace is a little less, so when batsmen try to slog, a lot of edges go towards gully. Afghanistan play an attacking game and that's what they were trying today too. They didn't read the wicket that well and tried to score quickly so they kept throwing their wickets."
Mohsin's abilities with the bat were also required in Pakistan's chase of 127. He walked in to bat at No. 5 with the score reading 81 for 3. They weren't in trouble of any sort, but the aggressor in Mohsin surfaced immediately as he started off with a six over long-on. When it seemed like the Afghanistan spinners were looking to exert some pressure on the batsmen, Mohsin collected fours against Zia-ur-Rehman and Rashid Khan to make light work of the pending task.
"I like to bat at No. 4 or 5, I'm more comfortable against spin," he said, while also throwing light on his admiration for Abdul Razzaq and Shoaib Malik. Like his heroes, the burning desire to wear the green cap in the pinnacle of the game drives him. "I'd love to play a Test one day, my dream is to play for Pakistan," Mohsin said. "The Under-19 World Cup is a great opportunity to go to the high level and represent the national team. Everyone wants to play for Pakistan, whatever the format."
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo