Worcestershire newcomer Kashif Ali says he never lost the inner belief in his own ability that he would one day be offered the opportunity to try and make the grade at first class level
Kashif has had to negotiate a challenging road to achieve his current position at New Road where he recently signed a contract until the end of the season and has enjoyed a golden run of form for the Seconds.
He had no formal coaching before moving from Kashmir to England at the age of 12, and instead learnt from watching top players such as Joe Root and Mohammad Yousuf in action on YouTube.
He did not play his first game until the age of 15 – for Dunstable CC – and was in those days primarily a pace bowler who batted at number 11 until injuries forced a change of plan.
A stint with the MCC Young Cricketers, being coached by ex Yorkshire and Gloucestershire pace bowler Steve Kirby, followed and the setback of not being offered a deal by Kent after a spell with their Academy.
Kashif also played for Nottinghamshire Seconds and last winter enjoyed a successful stint in the Kashmir Premier League which alerted Worcestershire to his potential.
He linked up with the South Asian Cricket Academy and was then offered a trial at New Road which he grabbed with both hands, scoring seven successive fifty plus scores for the Seconds and showcasing his potential in the Vitality Blast.
Tomorrow (Monday) the Seconds will again face SACA in a one-day friendly encounter at Stourbridge CC.
Kashif, who has scored 727 runs in his last seven knocks for the Seconds, said: “I always had that great determination never to give up, and always kept that faith in myself.
“I’ve done a lot of hard work behind the scenes and backed my ability.
“I know I’m going to play one of those innings that is hopefully going to be eye catching and I’ve always had a strong belief in myself that I’m good enough.
“I will just not stop, and will carrying on doing my thing, and in the end it paid off and I’m so grateful for Worcestershire for this chance.”
The innings that initially impressed Seconds coach, Kadeer Ali, was in the second innings of a Championship match with Northamptonshire Seconds at Wantage Road.
Kashif came in to stem a dramatic collapse by making a patient 74 to follow on from his first innings 80 and has not looked back.
He said: “We lost five wickets in the space of nine balls and we just had to bat through and grind things out, which we did.
“My biggest strength is I play the situation well, whether it was like at Northampton, or if it demands trying to score quickly.
“Whatever situation I’m given, I try and give 100 per cent and do well for the team I’m playing for.
“As a cricketer, it is important you are confident enough and you back your ability, because in cricket there are more bad days than good days.
“But if you know you’ve got the ability to play at the highest level, back yourself and train hard, nothing is impossible really.”
Kashmir the attractive middle-order stroke-maker who bowls spin is a different kind of player to when he first experienced playing.
He said: “I started my first ever game at the age of 15 and I was a fast bowler who never used to bat and went in at number 11.
“I always used to bowl pretty decent. At age of 17, I was bowling late 70mph.
“But then I picked up quite a few injuries which is why I had to stop bowling seam up and turned to trying to bat. My first games were for Dunstable CC. That is where I started cricket really.
“When I started playing cricket, I’d never had any coaching or anything like that.
“What I used to do was go on YouTube, watch a lot of players play, watch different matches and learn from it and it was very beneficial.
“I would say I learn stuff pretty quickly by watching other people. I observe things pretty quickly and how people go about their business.
“Growing up, I followed Mohammad Yousuf quite a lot, and also Joe Root and Shoaib Malik, people who are very consistent in their performances and I watched how they train and go about their business. I feel it helps quite a lot.
“When I got into the MCC Young Cricketers, that was when I had the coaches around me to help with batting and Steve Kirby was my Head Coach for the first year.”
Kashif is also keen to develop the bowling side of his game.
He said: “That is my main aim, to become an all-rounder, and not just a one dimensional type of player.
“I’ve been working quite hard with Alan (Richardson) on my off spin bowling as well which is very helpful.”
Seconds Coach, Kadeer Ali, has also been a reassuring presence for Kashif as he settles into professional cricket.
He said: “Everytime I have a conversation with Kadeer, it is very calm and helpful, whether about cricket, the professionalism etc.
“It is very helpful to be around him and learn a lot of stuff from him.
“He is very open-minded and very good at explaining anything I ask him, or any other player asks him, whether it is about batting, fielding and bowling.”
Kashif has produced a series of superb performances for the Seconds in recent weeks, including centuries against Warwickshire at Portland Road, Edgbaston and Nottinghamshire at Sports Club plus this week’s double ton against Somerset at Stourport.
But it is a knock last winter in the Kashmir Premier League that he rates as his best to date.
He said: “I’ve played in a few franchise leagues, including the KPL in Pakistan, a very high standard league with big crowds which all the Pakistan Super League players and current Pakistan players take part in.
“In the semi-final I scored 114 not out and won the game for the team and in the final scored a half century. But the semi-final knock was the best I’ve played so far but hopefully there are better ones to come with Worcestershire.”