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Imad Wasim: 'I don't think there are many aggressive spinners like me in the powerplay'

The Pakistan left-armer talks about his time at the T20 Blast, and his batting ambitions

Imad Wasim bowls for Nottinghamshire, Nottinghamshire v Leicestershire, Vitality Blast quarter-final, Trent Bridge, October 1, 2020

Imad Wasim: "My role is just to go out and attack in the first couple of overs I bowl and to pick up wickets"  •  Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Pakistan left-arm spinner Imad Wasim played nine Vitality T20 Blast matches for champions Nottinghamshire this season, taking eight wickets at an economy of 7.21. In this interview, he talks about becoming a new-ball bowler, developing a new delivery, and wanting to be recognised as an allrounder.
You arrived in England in June ahead of the Test series and won't go home until October. How have the last few months been for you?
It's been great. I worked really hard during the Covid lockdown, so it feels like it's paying off. I have family with me for this part of the trip, alhamdulilah. It was tough for three months not having my family around, but it is what it is for everyone, so no complaints. I'm going back home next week to play domestic cricket - I'm missing a couple of games of the National T20 Cup but then will join my team [Northern], so I'm looking forward to playing that. And then the PSL knockouts - it's going to be a really tough four or five months, but I'm excited to be back in Pakistan.
You've had a strong season for Nottinghamshire, with Dan Christian using you as a new-ball bowler in the powerplay. Have you enjoyed it?
It's been a really good season, my second year with Nottinghamshire. Dan is a really good captain. He's been playing for a long time and he's got a good head on his shoulders. He's used me in different conditions and at different times, depending on the situation and the opposition, but it's been spot on.
You have become one of the world's most experienced T20 spinners over the last five years. How did that role come about?
When I was playing domestic cricket, sometimes I would bowl an over in the powerplay - the fourth or the fifth. But when I became captain of my domestic team, it came to my mind that I should bowl the first over as well. And in first-class cricket, I would sometimes take the second new ball. It started like that and I was getting wickets regularly, so I thought: why shouldn't I do that with the white ball as well? I started doing it in white-ball cricket and it paid off. In international cricket they gave me the new ball because I'd had a great Pakistan A tour bowling with the new ball [in 2015 against Sri Lanka]. And from there, you become a new-ball specialist just like that.
"I am an allrounder. I'm ranked No. 3 in the world [in ODIs]. I don't want to be considered a bowler. I just want to become a pure allrounder"
What are the keys to successfully bowling spin in the powerplay?
With the new ball, you can't defend. You just have to attack. You try to take wickets early on to put the opposition on the back foot straightaway. If you try to defend, they'll get away in the powerplay - if not against you then against the other bowlers. So my role is just to go out and attack in the first couple of overs I bowl and to pick up wickets. I don't worry too much about the runs. The next two overs, you're looking for defence as well, depending on the situation. But with the new ball, I just try to hit the stumps and leave the rest to the batsmen. If they play a good shot, they play a good shot, but for me, it's a "you miss, I hit" kind of thing.
Even when you don't take wickets, your economy rate is generally very good. Does that help you create pressure at the other end?
Definitely. Partnerships are the most important thing in cricket - batting or bowling. When you're out there, your partner has to understand your game as well. Wherever I go, most teams think I'm an aggressive option, so the other bowler might think differently, which is a very good thing. I don't think there are many aggressive spinners in the powerplay. After the powerplay, yes, there are a lot of aggressive spinners, but in the powerplay, there aren't a lot around the world, so I'm really happy that teams think I am one of them.
Do you think batsmen have started to attack you less, knowing your success in that role, and are instead starting to play you out?
Not really. You make your game plan against any bowler, of course, but the number one thing you should do as a bowler is focus on your strength. Don't worry about what the opposition will do too much. Just stick to your strength and see how it goes from there. Obviously there will be times when you get smacked, but if you stick to your strength, you'll be successful 60 or 70 times out of 100, which is a very good ratio in international cricket. My advice: don't do anything different if something is working for you. For me, that is to take wickets and be aggressive.
Inside the powerplay, do you think lines and lengths are more important than actually trying to spin the ball?
With the new ball, I try to take the pace off, but don't try to spin the ball. It's really hard with the new ball, especially with only two fielders out. I get my basics right. After six overs, I'll start to spin the ball - and I'm developing a new ball, which hopefully you'll see next time I play international cricket if I keep working hard on it. I want to learn new balls that make me a different kind of a bowler outside the powerplay.
There is more analysis available than ever in T20 cricket in particular. Some players spend hours developing specific plans based on an opponent's strengths. Are you one of them?
I really don't care about what's happening outside of me. Because I've played a lot of international cricket, I know what opening batsmen's strengths and weaknesses are, but I don't think about that much. I just go out there and bowl. I have my processes, my repetitions, and I don't worry about the batsmen. If they hit me, they hit me, but I want them to hit me with a good shot rather than me giving them a bad ball. You have to respect good shots, which do happen, but I just try to do one thing with the new ball: hit the stumps.
When you were growing up, you would have watched Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis opening the bowling for Pakistan. Did you ever think that would be something you would do?
Never. I never expected it, or even thought about that in my life. Even in franchise cricket - I never expected it. God has given me this. It's not something spinners usually do.
You were stuck down at No. 8 or No. 9 for most of the T20 Blast with Nottinghamshire, and your record with the bat is much better in 50-over cricket than in T20.
I don't think I've got the opportunities I want. I got them in the World Cup. In one-day cricket I've had the opportunities and my performances have been not bad. I'm really happy in one-day cricket with where I am, but I want to express myself more. I have more to give my country with the bat. There have been glimpses in world cricket of me doing good things as an allrounder, but in T20, I haven't got the opportunities like that anywhere in the world. I'm really working hard on my batting. Someday I could win a big game with my batting and then people will start thinking about me as an allrounder in T20 as well as one-day cricket. I'm really hungry to score runs for my country and for franchise teams.
So you consider yourself Imad Wasim, Pakistan allrounder, not Imad Wasim, Pakistan bowler?
No, no, no! I am an allrounder. I'm ranked No. 3 in the world [in ODIs]. I don't want to be considered a bowler. I just want to become a pure allrounder. I'm working hard and the rest is up to God. Whenever God decides to give me fame as a batsman, just like in bowling, it will happen, inshallah.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98