Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy: Asif reaping rewards for off season hard work

Having got retained by Chennai Super Kings, a fit and faster K.M. Asif is enjoying a good spell in the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.

K.M. Asif gets ready to bowl during the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy tournament.   -  Ranjith Peralam

A fitter, faster and wiser K. M. Asif is making heads turn this season on the cricket field. He has been the standout bowler for Kerala in the Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournaments.

Bowling in fine rhythm and with genuine pace, the fast bowler picked up 16 wickets in the Vijay Hazare campaign. The blistering opening spell  in which he demolished the Hyderabad top-order with a four wicket burst (4-2-4-4) was one of the finest bowled by a Kerala bowler in recent memory.

In the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament, Asif bowled with hostility and accuracy. And in a tournament where his fellow seam bowlers got the stick, Asif commanded respect from the opposition batsmen. Though he picked up only three wickets, he had a fantastic economy of 5.93.

Asif is reaping rewards for the hard work he did in the off season at the MRF Pace Academy.

"The increase in pace is due to the hard work I did to improve my fitness. Last season my length was on the shorter side. Now  I am pitching the ball up a little further and I am able to swing the ball and make the batsmen play more at my deliveries. And  I am getting the results," Asif said.

Pace, slower ball and  yorkers, Asif has all the variations a fast bowlers needs in white ball cricket but his coach at MRF Pace Academy Senthil Nathan says his ward should now learn when to use these deliveries judiciously.

"Asif has all the variations which a pace bowler needs but it  It is all about mixing them to confuse the batsman. Asif has improved as a bowler. We concentrated on improving his core strength as he had injury concerns last season. We worked on technical aspects of his bowling and made him bowl more on the off stump  in the nets and the result is there to see," said Senthilnathan.

Sunil Sam the former Tamil Nadu pace bowler who is the assistant coach at the MRF was also impressed with Asif's bowling this season.

"He is bowling well and touching speeds in excess of 140k. His economy rate is fantastic. He will be the bowler to watch out for this season," he said.

Asif, who hasn been retained by CSK in the IPL, is keenly looking forward to making an impact in the Ranji Trophy.

"Last season I didn't get any chance to  play in any format. This season  coach (Dav) Whatmore and captain (Robin) Uthappa have shown faith in me. Hopefully I will get a chance in Ranji Trophy this season after my good performance with the white ball. I am keen to do well with the red ball. ," he added.

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