Thursday, April 18th, 2024

Kadeer Ali: The journey of special talent Kashif Ali to New Road

Worcestershire Assistant Head Coach Kadeer Ali says former Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire player, Bilal Shafayat, deserves immense credit for in form batter Kashif Ali ending up at New Road.

Kadeer, who describes Kashif as a “special talent”, was first made aware of his potential by his close friend Shafayat during the pandemic more than three years ago.

Shafayat sent him dozens of messages and also videos of Kashif scoring 114 not out off 51 balls for Rawalakot Hawks in the 2021 Kashmir Premier League semi-final and then 54 off 29 balls in the final.

Kadeer was quickly convinced of his potential and the rest, as they say, is history, with Kashif becoming the first product of the South Asian Cricket Academy (SACA) to sign a professional contract with a first class county.

He will be looking to continue his fine start to the season when Worcestershire take on Durham in the Vitality County Championship match at Kidderminster starting tomorrow (Friday).

Kadeer said: “During COVID, a very good friend of mind, and I want to give him a lot of credit, Bilal Shafayat, messaged me when I first was appointed as Worcestershire Seconds Coach that I need to have a look at this kid called Kashif Ali.

“During COVID there was hardly any second team cricket, just one game for us at Edgbaston, and we had professionals who weren’t playing and needed a game so I couldn’t get him into that game.

“I left it that summer and during the winter on WhatsApp I kept seeing Bilal posting scorecards ‘Kashif Ali hundred’.

“Everytime he put a scorecard on, Kashif would have some runs playing in the Oman T20 and he also sent me videos of his hundred off 50 odd balls in the semi-final of the Kashmir Premier League and 50 off 20 odd in the final

“I got Kashif’s number off Bilal and messaged him that winter when he was playing in Pakistan and said we would give him an opportunity when he came to England.

“The Seconds played against SACA in the first game of the 2022 season at Stratford and Kash had literally just come off the plane and came to the game to watch really.

“But he had his kit in the car and, as it was only a friendly, Kash went in at number nine against us and got a fifty off 20 something balls and he was really impressive.

“From then onwards whenever we had second team cricket that summer, he played for us and did really well.”

Kadeer added: “I remember speaking to Bilal at the time and he said I think Kash is getting to a stage where he might give up.

“I don’t know how true that is, but that was what Bilal said, and he also said ‘he is too good a talent not to be involved.’

“We offered him that three month contract and the very next game he scored 200 against Somerset Seconds at Stourport when it was red hot day and he played beautifully.

“Speaking to the coaches at Worcestershire, I was really keen to get something done for him because I saw his potential.

“I was thinking ‘this guy has got to get an opportunity with Worcestershire’ and I’m grateful to the club to back and trust me with Kashif and initially giving him that three month contract.”

Kashif went onto earn a two year contract before the end of the 2022 season and last month signed a new four year deal until the end of the 2027 campaign.

He has made a fine start to the 2024 season with 283 runs in three innings, a figure currently only surpassed by Warwickshire Alex Davies (292) in Division One.

Kadeer said: “The Warwickshire game showed how good he is, but he has shown more than glimpses of his abilities in the last couple of years.

“On his debut against Kent in the One-Day Cup, himself and Ed Barnard had a brilliant partnership and Kashif scored a hundred on debut after being 30-3.

“His talent is there to see. He has got fast hands through the ball. He has got a unique set-up. His bottom hand does go a little bit back round on the handle but he finds a way to still crunch the ball through the off side.

“He has got quick hands, picks up the length very quickly, and he is a special talent.

“It has been an amazing journey for Kash and example for anyone out there that your chance or opportunity can come when it is not expected sometimes or a little bit further down the line.

“People do develop later and sometimes opportunities do come a bit further down the road and Kash is a really good example, not just for the South Asian community but for whoever is out there who is talented and trying to make it in the professional game.”

Kashif has attracted plenty of media head-lines after his excellent start to the season.

Kadeer said: “First and foremost, I’m not surprised he has done it because I know his potential and how good he is.

“He deserves all the praise that is coming his way at this minute because of his journey, working so hard.

“Every winter he plays in Pakistan, he plays a lot of matches and works so hard and is very dedicated.

“He trialled for five or six years and was a bit of a journeyman in that aspect, going from game to game.

“He covered a lot of distance in his car, just playing when he got an opportunity.

“His biggest strength as a batter, no matter what situation he finds himself in, he is always looking to score.

“He will always put the bad ball away whether we are 10-4 or 200-2. He has got a brilliant mindset and plays with excellent tempo.”