Kashif Ali is determined to build on his promising first season with Worcestershire and says treating every game as if it is his last gives him that hunger and motivation to succeed.
The 25-year-old became the first product of the South Asian Cricket Association to sign for a first class county when he moved to New Road.
After an initial short term contract, his performances earned him a new two year deal.
He made his initial breakthrough in the Vitality Blast, then scored a half century on his LV=Insurance County Championship debut against Derbyshire.
It was followed by a memorable hundred in his first List A appearance against Kent in the One-Day Cup at New Road.
That was a “proud and special day” for Kashif against the county where he had previously been part of the Academy.
He went onto to hit 61 against Lancashire before a broken thumb in that game at Emirates Old Trafford whilst fielding curtailed his season.
But he has spent the winter training and playing a high level of club cricket in Pakistan – often against international and first class players – and has started the 2023 season in fine form for Worcestershire Seconds.
Kashif smashed 60 off 29 balls with seven sixes against SACA in a T20 game and then made an accomplished 89 in the Second Eleven Championship against a Lancashire attack containing England duo Luke Wood and Matt Parkinson.
He said: “I was pleased with how my 2022 went. Having a good year, having played with Worcestershire, it has been great. I’m enjoying my time, and a great bunch of lads which makes it even better.
“I’m very grateful and very blessed to get the contract from Worcestershire. The journey has been good and I’ve enjoyed the ride so far.
“Has a taste of first team cricket given you a taste for more in 2023? Definitely. Every game I play, whether it is first team or second team, I try to play like it is my last game.
“I think that gives you hunger, that keeps you hungry, keeps you motivated for the games coming up.
“Playing in the first team in all formats last season, has given me a lot of encouragement and I’m very confident moving forward.”
The fifty against Derbyshire and century versus Kent are occasions that were savoured by Kashif.
He said: “Having to play in the second eleven for the last couple of years and then making my first class debut for Worcestershire was brilliant for me and scoring a fifty made it even better.
“There was a lot of excitement going through me and it was a very special time and I’m looking forward to repeating it again in coming times for Worcestershire.
“Against Kent, it was a proud day for me because I was In the Kent Academy previously and got released.
“Having to play against them in the first team, and making my List A debut against them was pretty special, and scoring my hundred made it even better.
“It very emotional for myself to be honest because all I ever dreamed of was to play professional cricket and here I was playing at the highest level (of domestic cricket).
“My family were watching on TV ball by ball live. It was a very memorable day for them as well. They were very happy and emotional at the same time.
“They wanted to see me at the highest level I could achieve.”
Kashif seized his opportunities after a superb run of scores for the Seconds, a double century, two hundreds and four fifties in the space of seven innings, before the broken thumb temporarily halted his progress.
He said: “Things like that are not in your control. It was a shame my season ended there because I felt in such good touch.
“I was batting well, but these things happen as a cricketer, so you’ve just got to accept them and move forward. “
After recovering he played T20 cricket in the Atalanta Open for Florida Scorpions before spending the remainder of the winter in his native Pakistan.
Kashmir born Kashif said: “I’ve been training and playing matches. It gives you a lot of match practice. It was club cricket and local tournaments.
“They are very competitive because a lot of international and first class players play in those tournaments. They are of a very good standard.
“I was playing wherever I can and gaining as much experience as I could.
“I’d played the previous year in the Kashmir Premier League (KPL), a big franchise similar to the Pakistan Super League, because all the players and international players play in the KPL.”
Kashif has also been developing his spin bowling and is keen to develop into a genuine all-rounder.
He said: “I have been working hard during the winter with my bowling as well. I’ve been having talks with Richo (Alan Richardson) about my bowling so we’ve been doing some drills, a lot of bowling in the nets and Kaddy (Kadeer Ali) as well has helped a lot.
“I want to become a genuine all-rounder who can be really useful with the ball and bat. I want to be able to do both skills. I’ve also bowled as much as I could in matches as well.”
Kashif has played for Bedfordshire in National Counties T20 cricket as well as the Seconds during the opening phase of the season.
I do enjoy playing for Bedfordshire. I’ve played with them for a few years and they are good guys. We get on well and when I’m available it’s good to get back with them and play.
“It’s a good grounding and you also get more match practice.
“It’s gone well in the Seconds. We played a couple of T20 matches against SACA and I had a decent score and then, playing against Lancashire, it was a pretty good attack with Luke Wood and Matt Parkinson but I felt good.
“Is the aim to keep pushing for the first team? That is the aim. Every player is hoping to do that.”