Hamid Hassan: Another Lap For The Old Warhorse

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Hamid Hassan: Another lap for the old warhorse. "I never give up quickly," the 34-year-old Afghanistan bowler says after his comeback into the national team

Hamid Hassan: Another Lap For The Old Warhorse"I never give up quickly," the 34-year-old Afghanistan bowler says after his comeback into the national team

“Maybe [I pushed myself too much]… I don't know. I was very excited. I was ready to go and I don't know… something else was written in my destiny… ‘that you'll bowl two overs and then you have to say bye bye to cricket.”

Thus spoke an emotional Hamid Hassan just before he hobbled slowly towards the team bus waiting by the gates of the Headingley Stadium. It was June 30, 2019 and the veteran Afghanistan fast bowler had just had his final ODI cruelly cut short by a hamstring injury, his absence on the field costing Afghanistan a major World Cup victory over neighbours Pakistan in a tense encounter.

Hamid had not closed the door on his T20I career then but it seemed to be shutting on him on its own like those automatic sensor-based doors. He hadn't been anywhere near the Afghanistan T20I XI since the 2016 T20 WC. In that time, he'd begun dabbling with other crafts – commentary at the Shpageeza Cricket League and even coaching in an unofficial capacity – two common post-playing career vocations.

A retirement announcement, though, wasn't forthcoming. Between his commentary stint during Afghanistan's Test match against Ireland in Dehradun, Hamid was trying to patch his injury-ravaged body, plotting yet another comeback. He would change into his training gear and work with the physio during lunch breaks. The old warhorse felt it had another lap in it.

The elusive call-up did come earlier this year, for the series against Zimbabwe, but a failure to get the UAE visa on time meant the bus had left him behind once more. Surely, it was over now. As it turned out, a team caught in political turmoil still needed its most experienced fast bowler before travelling to a World Cup.

Hamid, though, wasn't a starter. His return to the T20I XI for the clash against Namibia was a matter of providence, as a replacement for the injured new-age Afghanistan star Mujeeb Ur Rahman.

Five years on, had the game passed him by? The veteran didn't need new tricks. The old ones – yorkers and the surprise bouncer – still worked just fine. Figures of 3 for 9 was just reward for persistence.

“I never give up quickly,” the 34-year-old says. “I have great self belief and [I'm] also a very hardworking person.

“When you target something to achieve something, you have to work very hard. What I've done over the last couple of years, I have to say, I train very hard and work very hard for this opportunity. I play every game, whatever the selectors give me in Afghanistan. Also thanks to the selection committee for believing in me and giving me that opportunity. I've shown my talent to them already before and my fitness tests, whatever they require for me to get here. It was a great comeback for me, especially after five years of break.”

Part of what made Hamid's comeback against Namibia special was that his fast bowling protege Naveen Ul Haq also snared three wickets from the other end in a symbolic passing of the guard moment.

Naveen, who idolises Hamid, was all of 10 when Hamid represented Afghanistan in the country's first-ever World Cup appearance in the Caribbean in 2010 and in many ways is one of the symbols of the modern-day globe-trotting Afghanistan player.

“Luckily I'm again part of this team in the T20 WC,” Hamid says. “That time [in 2010] it was for us very new, very different. A big occasion, playing against one of the best teams in the world. It was such a brilliant experience of my life, to play against South Africa and India in 2010.

“Right now you see the players, they are very famous playing cricket all around the world. It's one of the best signs for Afghanistan's future that players are involved in different leagues all over the world. I have to say Naveen is one of the best options and one of the best finds for Afghanistan. He's improved a lot in the last couple of years playing T20 cricket in every part of the world. Only one IPL is left, hopefully he'll get a chance there as well , the way he's performing in this World Cup.”

It is players like Naveen that have helped Afghanistan press on to the next step and aspire for more, Hamid observes. They're no longer at these ICC events for an experience. They talk a big game, like beating Pakistan or India, and set themselves targets of reaching semifinals.

“Mashallah, Afghanistan is now a very good side – bowling, batting and even fielding is much improved,” Hamid says. “We have one of the best spinners in the world – Nabi, Rashid, Mujeeb. It's a proper complete squad.

“The top-order may or may not click but the good sign is that the middle-order is getting runs, especially skipper and Gulbadin [Naib] in the middle. THe good news is that we haven't gotten all out so far, we have batting till No.9, most of the batsmen can hit even Rashid hasn't batted yet. So we have good opportunities against India, if we score good runs on the board inshallah we can defeat them with bowling and fielding.

What role does Hamid, the wise old head, see for himself amidst this uber-ambitious generation of cricketers?

“I would like to help the youngsters, whatever experience I have, I share with them,” he says. “If I'm in Afghanistan or outside, they always connect with me, asking me questions, especially the youngsters who are in the team now.

“Right now, I'm here and my job is still not done yet. Still a couple of matches left and I want to play them very well.”

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