Hassan Ibrahim, a Maldivian fast bowler talks to Sportageous about his cricketing journey, Maldives cricket on the T20I scene, and his hopes to pursue coaching after retirement.
Cricket is growing rapidly in The Maldives, and their players are increasingly improving the quality of their game. Read Hassan Ibrahim’s story here.
Sarah Fatima: Tell us a bit about how you got involved in the sport and why you selected fast bowling as a field to specialize in?
Hassan Ibrahim: I got involved in cricket through a development programme named “Cricket for the Year 2000 and Beyond” which was aimed at introducing cricket to school children. The long-term aim of the programme which was launched in 1999 was to create a new generation of talented cricketers who will lead the national team in the coming years.
When I started off, I was taller than the other boys in the programme so my coaches always pushed me into fast bowling and I naturally developed a love for it. Ever since then I have always loved the idea of fast bowling. However, it has had a lot of stress on the body.
You made your T20I debut in 2019 against Kuwait and performed well. What did it feel like to finally get an opportunity to showcase your talents?
It was a dream come true to lead this small nation on the world stage when we made our ICC T20 international debut. Ever since I debuted for the national team in 2006, it had always been my long term goal to lead the team, and the opportunity came in Kuwait in our first ICC event.
There is a perception that fast bowling is dying because of how difficult it is in terms of the energy and skill that it requires. What are your thoughts on this?
There are many factors as to why the art of fast bowling is dying. To name a few, spectators and viewers demand and expect high-scoring games and with the introduction of T20, the pitches have become very flat and batter-dominant.
Apart from this, fast bowling puts a lot of stress on the body. Also, it takes a vast amount of time to master the skills for fast bowling. No cricketer wants a long-term injury such as stress fractures because of specialising in fast bowling.
The two governments recently signing a contract whereby India has offered to build an international standard ground for us to play in.
Tell me a little bit about some personal highlights in your career?
To get 5-for in the international game had always been a goal that I had and to get 5/24 against Bahrain in the ICC T20 qualifiers was a milestone & accomplishment, for me, personally. This outcome landed me amongst the list for best figures in a T20 game alongside superstars from across the globe.
To show skills while bowling and being the major contributor for the game and get the man of the match against Bhutan in the 13th South Asian Games was also a significant achievement.
What is the local reception for cricket in the Maldives?
The locals do enjoy watching the game - that’s for sure.
During the IPL season, almost every household has the game on, so I would say cricket is popular in the Maldives. But we need to increase participation in the sport in order to create opportunities for competitions which will lead to the development of the sport.
Where do you personally wish to see cricket going in your country?
I wish for Maldives to work hard and push for a T20 World Cup qualification spot. It’s a big dream, but I don’t see why we should aim lower than this. I back the current cricketers in the national setup, they just need to be exposed to better coaching expertise and more international games.
How supportive is the government/authorities of your country with respect to encouraging cricket in the region?
We are fortunate enough to be geographically located with regional superpowers of the game. The government has close ties with these countries in getting help, especially India.
They have pledged to give technical support in addition to the two governments recently signing a contract whereby India has offered to build an international standard ground for us to play in.
Considering you’re 29, is there a possibility of retiring in the next few years. What are your plans for the future?
I’m as fit as I have been in the early years of my career so I don’t have a set date or a timeline to end playing. But once that happens, I want to be involved in the coaching side of the game, as I have a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Coaching and Administration.
I am also currently gaining the specific coaching badges needed to transition into coaching so that I am ready for when the time comes.
Are you open to the possibility of playing other forms of cricket?
I had two stints in Australia and I liked 2-day cricket very much as it gives the batter and bowler the opportunity to showcase their skills more than ever, as the bowler is not limited to bowl a certain number of overs whereas the batter can take time to settle in.
So from a bowler’s point of view, trying to set up a batter to get them out by a certain method is a challenging task, but when you succeed it’s so rewarding!
But with the Maldives, it’s always limited-overs cricket, with a major focus on T20 cricket. This is probably because of the ICCs main focus in growing the game globally through T20.
There are many factors as to why the art of fast bowling is dying. To name a few, spectators and viewers are demanding for high-scoring games and with introduction of T20 the pitches have become very flat and batsman dominant.
Any advice to those aspiring to master in fast bowling?
Well, fast bowling is a very hard skill to master and you always have to keep developing, because cricket is evolving constantly. You cannot be a one-dimensional bowler and survive in world cricket.
Any other thoughts or comments?
Thanks to everyone who has supported me throughout my career - especially my friends and family for always being there for me.
I wish Maldives Cricket success in years to come!