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Ihsanullah, the young speedster who has taken the PSL by storm

Here's everything you need to know about the fast bowler, who impressed with figures of 5 for 3 in the match against Gladiators

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
Ihsanullah celebrates another dismissal, Multan Sultans vs Quetta Gladiators, PSL, Multan, February 15, 2023

Ihsanullah's archery hit the bullseye against Quetta Qalandars  •  PCB

On Wednesday evening in Multan, 20-year-old Ihsanullah bowled a furious spell, clocking 150kph and finishing with a maiden five-for against Quetta Gladiators. He rattled Sarfaraz Ahmed's stumps, foiled Jason Roy to get him caught at mid-off and trapped Iftikhar Ahmed on the very next ball. He finished with figures of 4-1-12-5 and in the 13th over of the innings, his figure read 2.4-1-3-5. He registered his trademark 'archer' celebration after every wicket he took. Here's everything you need to know about the towering 6ft 4in fast bowler.

So, what is Ihsanullah's story?

He was born and raised in Arkot village, a hilly area in Matta Tehsil in Swat valley, the northern part of the country. He lost his house during the 2022 Pakistan floods, which affected millions of people, after which he had to rebuild his life from scratch.

How did Ihsanullah get into cricket?

Ihsanullah and Sirajuddin (another emerging bowler in the Peshawar Zalmi squad) were called up by Rashid Latif in Islamabad for trials. The duo had enrolled in the Kamyab Jawan Sports Drive, a talent programme by former Prime Minister Imran Khan in collaboration with Lahore Qalandars' player development programme. He was recommended to three PSL franchises - Qalandars, Karachi Kings and Multan Sultans - and Multan managed to get him registered in the PSL 2022 draft.
In 2017, he played in PCB's Under-16 tournament representing FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area) and was the second-leading wicket-taker for the region with 12 scalps. He was selected to play PCB's U-16 Pentangular T20 Tournament in 2018 but soon fell off the radar. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) picked him to play three-day cricket in 2021. But he shot in prominence only last year when Sultans got him in the supplement category half-heartedly as their last pick, just to have a back-up fast bowler on the bench.

Did Ihsanullah play PSL last year?

He did. He had bowled one over against Karachi and got injured in his very next game against Lahore Qalandars and was never able to complete his quota of overs. He touched 138kmph and was a reluctant starter for competitive cricket. He was ruled out of the remainder of the tournament last year. A year later he was among the eight players that the franchise preserved as their core.

What did Ihsanullah do to earn back Sultans' faith?

He finished his rehabilitation and recovered ahead of the domestic season with KP under head coach Abdur Rehman (also an assistant coach at Sultans). He played seven first-class matches, the National T20 Cup and the Pakistan one-day Cup - where he become the second-leading wicket-taker with 25 dismissals at an average of 19.96 and a strike rate of 18.2. An improved Ihsan managed to hit the form right in time before the PSL.

Wasn't Ihsanullah a bowler with 130kph speed? How did he work on it?

He was always quick. In domestic cricket, his average speed was in the 130s but often crossed the 140kph mark. According to his coach Rehman, "he had minor issues in his action like running with bigger steps in early days but with time, with minor tweaks, he started to get fluent. He [has] got height, his muscles are building and he is growing with every game he is playing. He is understanding the importance of fitness and the mechanic of fast bowling and now getting into the right frame. A proper fast bowler. The good thing about him is not just pace but he is economical with speed as well and it's a complete package. He, with time, has room to add another 2kph to what he bowled yesterday (150kmph). We entered into the tournament with him among our main bowlers we can rely on."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent