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Ali Nasar Zaidi: Australia’s immigrant cricketing prodigy

Ali Nasar Zaidi was born in Pakistan, grew up in Saudi Arabia, spent some time living in Qatar and finally migrated to Australia. Down Under he developed and further refined his cricketing skills and now represents the Queensland U-19 Cricket team at the age of 16.

Ali Nasar Zaidi
Source: Supplied

Inspired by the grit and determination of some of the greats, nothing is stopping Ali Nasar Zaidi from achieving his goal of representing Australia, much like one of his role models, Usman Khawaja (whom, he happens to share a training ground with). Tune in as we catch up with Ali and hear about his journey so far, and what is to come in the future.

Zushan Hashmi: Tell us a little bit about how you got into cricket?

Ali Nasar Zaidi: Growing up in Saudi Arabia where there was only one cricket ground, my father, a diehard cricket fan, had a massive influence in kicking off my journey. After finishing work every Friday night, he used to take me to watch him and his team take the field.

That’s where I deeply fell in love with the game. As there was no junior competition, I didn’t have a proper opportunity to participate. However, I used to imitate my dad and his teammate Pranab Kumar, while copying Sarfraz Ahmed’s batting style and their amazing keeper at the time, Yasir.

On one occasion, after I had bugged my dad about wanting to play in his team, he got a special consent form for me when I was 7, which allowed me to be the 12th man for the men’s team. Even though I went into the field just for 3 to 4 overs, it was an unreal feeling. The atmosphere, the smell, everything was so unique and unforgettable.

I suppose the love of the game, came directly from my father. As on one occasion, my father got into a terrifying car accident. However, he had a game that day which I was sure he would not be able to play as much as I wanted him to. To my likings, he asked my older brother to bring his whites straight to the ground while he left his damaged car and took a taxi straight to the ground and scored a memorable 50 to win the game for his team.

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Being Pakistani, growing up in the Middle East, and of course moving to Australia, cricket would be natural for you, how has your training and game changed as you moved across Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Australia?

Certainly, Training has changed a lot over the last 10 or so years. In Qatar and Saudi Arabia, it was mainly playing cricket in the backyard with my two older brother’s or in my primary school with my best mates, Manav Dimiri, Mustafa Khan, Omar Feroz and many others.

But when we arrived in Australia, I was lucky enough to get a lot of help from my first coach, Nigel Martin, who polished my technique and guided me to become the cricketer I am today. As you know the game is evolving rapidly, so nowadays, I am polishing all three technical components of the game but even more so doing mental exercises to develop and be in the right headspace.

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What sort of opportunities has cricket provided you in Australia? (ie. Schooling, travel etc)

By the grace of Allah (God), I have been blessed with many achievements and opportunities and God willing this is only the beginning. I’ve been immensely lucky to be able to gain a scholarship to one of the most prestigious schools in Australia, Brisbane Boys College.

With this opportunity, I have also had the experience of playing cricket in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. I look forward to what the future holds and I am humbled and appreciative of my previous experiences. 

Cricket hits a 6
Ali Nasar Zaidi hits a six (Source: Supplied)

In most cases, the primary focus amongst migrant communities, particularly the Pakistani diaspora, is an education first. What sort of support has your family (ie. Parents) given you that has enabled you to continue pursuing the path of cricket?

Honestly, I really don’t think I could get a better supporting staff than my family and close mates. As you said, it is very rare for a migrant family to back their child to not only let him pursue his dream but also fully support him through the high and lows of the journey.

Truly, without the unconditional support of my family, I would not be here. I certainly think as athletes, we do not say it enough to our families. So, thank you to them. I really do appreciate all you do for me and I certainly could not do without you.

On one occasion, after I had bugged my dad about wanting to play in his team, he got a special consent form for me when I was 7, which allowed me to be the 12th man for the men’s team. Even though I went into the field just for 3 to 4 overs, it was an unreal feeling. The atmosphere, the smell, everything was so unique and unforgettable.

 

Most young Pakistani-Australians who dream of playing cricket for Australia look up to Usman Khawaja and what he has achieved, you, on the other hand, train at the same stadium as him, and are also based in Queensland, has he been an influence/inspiration in your career so far? How so?

Yes, he has. Born in the same country as him and having shared a similar sort of journey in a way, he is someone I look up to from time from time.

Are there any other cricketers you look up to? Who?

Three cricketers that I’ve looked up to the most would be Ms Dhoni, Ab de Villers and Virat Kohli.

MS Dhoni because of the calm manner that he approached and played the game whether that be Keeping or Batting. Ab de Villers for his ability to be creative and create something out of nothing. Finally Virat Kohli, for his consistency, determination and self-belief.

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Keeping batting and bowling? You do them all. If you had to pick a single strength, what would you pick and why?

I obviously love and enjoy all three aspects of cricket including fielding. I love helping my team in as many ways as possible, but if I had to choose one, it would be batting.

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It’s a tough choice between keeping and batting because keeping allows me to be involved in every ball but hitting balls is a different vibe for me.

Ali Nasar Zaidi hits a shot (Source: Supplied)

You are gearing up to play in the Brisbane Premier League with the Gold Coast WaveRiders, tell me a bit about the league and the team you’ll be playing for?

The BPL is a franchise-driven T20 club cricket tournament for junior & senior cricketers, where the best compete against the best in an event model based on the IPL.

The competition consists of 8 franchises, in which I’ll be playing for the Gold Coast Waveriders this year in August.

To the next generation cricketers, be humble and hungry. But whatever the final result may be, just make sure you enjoy every single step of the journey whether that be training for hours and hours or even getting a duck on a Saturday.

With so many cricket formats around, batters have started polishing their skills for one or the other. Rarely do you see players like Virat Kohli and Babar Azam who shine in all formats? Where do you see yourself across the 3 main formats? And why?

I’ve always been a huge fan of all three formats because as you said all the formats test you mentally and physically and I love challenges.

My batting style suits more to the one day format which is beneficial as it’s easier for me to make adjustments to my t20 and longer format game. But I definitely would want to experience all three formats.

Ali Nasar Zaidi
Ali Nasar Zaidi during a game (Source: Supplied)

What would you say to young Pakistani-Australians and young kids in general who want to take a cricketing path?

To the next generation cricketers, be humble and hungry. But whatever the final result may be, just make sure you enjoy every single step of the journey whether that be training for hours and hours or even getting a duck on a Saturday.

I know it’s hard to enjoy getting out on the first ball but think about how most kids around the world don’t even get that opportunity. I know it’s a big cliche but honestly, you realise how special you are compared to the rest of the world.

What is your ambition for the future and why?

My goal is to reach the full potential I see myself reaching, so the talent God has given me, I do justice with.


You can follow Ali Nasar Zaidi on Instagram and Youtube.
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