Long road from boy to man

Anwar Ali

Age: 25, karachi

right-arm medium-fast

Has played 1t20I

Those who saw Anwar Ali strutting his stuff as an 18-year-old at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore and more so during the U-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka, almost knew innately about being in the presence of genius.

Here was a young kid, who had everything going for him. A naturally athletic physique, broad shoulders, the ability to swing the ball sharply mainly into the batsman the knack of picking up wickets, an enviable litheness in the field and fine hitting ability.

Not to forget, the penchant for hogging the limelight by performing on the big stage. Like he did in 2006 while producing arguably the most sensational spell of swing bowling ever seen in U-19 cricket. For on that February evening at the R Premadasa Stadium, Ali proved unplayable. In less than four overs, he had reduced India U-19 to 23/7 in the dramatic final, picking up five wickets.

In later years, those who faced him in Colombo that evening would admit to have been totally bamboozled by the right-arm pacer's snaking in-swingers as is evident in replay footages from six years ago.

Along with helping Pakistan to their second consecutive U-19 crown, Ali's dreamy spell in the final was the culmination of a dazzling tournament, where he finished as his country's leading wicket-taker. The world was his oyster. From here, greatness seemed just a step away for the enigmatic Ali. Just a matter of time, before he would unleash his indelible charm on world cricket.

Astonishingly, that wasn't to be. Rarely has a prodigy faded away so rapidly or so inconspicuously. To the extent that when he arrives in India as part of Pakistan's ODI squad, Ali, now 25, will be on his first major tour for the senior team.

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