Pakistan have picked relative unknown Abrar Ahmed for the upcoming seven-match T20I series against England — here’s all you need to know about the 23-year-old mystery bowler.
Abrar has just played 17 T20s, picking up 19 wickets at an average of over 25. The above numbers, including his economy rate of 7.63, are impressive without being standout, but the Pakistan selectors have rewarded him with a place in the T20I side for England, picking him as one of four spinners in the squad.
The youngster made his T20 debut in the 2017 Pakistan Super League, after catching the attention of then Karachi Kings coach Mickey Arthur, who was also the Pakistan head coach at the time. A finger-spinner, Abrar can also bowl leg-spin, googlies and flippers – having learnt the craft by watching a number of slow bowlers on television through his growing-up years. The fact that he does not use his wrists to send down any delivery makes him hard to read, and Arthur, impressed by the mystery that he brought to the table, gave him a go immediately in the PSL.
However, the outing did not go as planned. Abrar played only two games in the league without taking a wicket. He was diagnosed with a back stress fracture midway through the season, which meant that he was out of the game for almost two years. Arthur, however, continued to keep an eye out on him, and it was under his recommendation that Abrar went to the National Cricket Academy to recuperate.
Abrar was a typical youngster, spending most of his days playing tape cricket on the streets of Karachi. He was advised to hone his skills further and decided to undergo trials for training at the Rashid Latif Cricket Academy in 2014. Soon after, he was asked to apply for the under-19 district team for Karachi by the head coach of the academy, and it was the start of Abrar’s professional journey.
He took part in various inter-district and inter-region district tournaments over the next few years. In the Inter-District Under-19 Two-Day Tournament in 2015, he picked up 15 wickets in only four games and picked up another 13 scalps in three matches in the Inter-Region Under-19 Three-Day Tournament in 2015-16. Next season, he did even better, picking up 54 wickets in six inter-district games, averaging 12 and plucking out seven five-fors through the competition.
Abrar’s achievements, however, were being viewed with scepticism. Playing at Karachi, famous for its spin-friendly wickets, aided the bowler, and his next challenge was proving he could succeed on greener trackers with little to no assistance. His first big test came during the Inter-Region Under-19 One Day Tournament in 2016/17, playing for Karachi Region Whites in Islamabad, Abbottabad, Bahawalpur and Mirpur. He left everyone surprised by ending the competition as the leading wicket-taker with 17 wickets, despite a number of quicks also being in action.
The PSL debut followed, and his return from injury further opened up opportunities for Abrar. He was drafted into the National T20 Cup in 2020/21, and although he did not play in the first XI, he got an opportunity to turn out for Sindh’s second XI in that tournament. That year, Abrar also played for Sindh’s second XI in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. His performances helped him make his first-class debut that year, in Sindh’s first-choice team. He ended the season as his side’s third-highest wicket-taker, picking up 16 scalps in five games.
In the 2021/22 season, Abrar played just two games in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, but left his mark, with 17 wickets at an average of 12.47 with two five-wicket hauls. No other bowler with at least 10 wickets had a better average than him. In last year’s PSL, Abrar, once again, struggled for chances, but when he did get an opportunity, he did not fail to impress, taking 3-14 against Peshawar Zalmi, bamboozling batters with his carrom balls, googlies and sharp turners.
Six wickets were also grabbed in the National T20 Cup in 2021, and he bettered the showing this season, with 10 scalps in the recently-concluded event, bagging them at an average of 22.80. It helped him get a maiden international call-up, and considering that the first four T20Is against England are in Karachi, his hometown, a debut would be a perfect dream.