Chennai Super Kings’ fast-bowling prodigy KM Asif is making a return to the UAE years after arriving in Dubai to work as a storekeeper at a beverage bottling plant.
KM Asif’s humble beginnings
Like many of us, KM Asif grew up surrounded by all-things cricket and aspired to be a cricketer. However, his family’s lack of finances forced him to get a job in Dubai to work at a beverage bottling company as a storekeeper, with a salary of just AED 5,000 (INR 99,846). Despite proving his fast-bowling abilities at state and club-level trials, he was often rejected and made his way to Dubai to earn.
Photograph credit: Dubai Media Office
MRF Pace Foundation breakthrough
After getting his first salary, the then-23-year-old rushed back to India to give cricket another shot eyeing a nationwide-trial by IDBI Bank headed by former Australian cricketer Jeff Thomson. His talent was recognized at the trial and was awarded a scholarship at the MRF Pace Foundation, training under the mentorship of Australia’s greatest fast bowler, Glenn McGrath. The coaching centre boasts of famed Indian bowlers including Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, RP Singh and Munaf Patel.
A trip back to Dubai
Despite making it into the MRF Pace Foundation and selectors promising him a slot into the Kerala squad, Asif didn’t get listed into the probables list. The rage made him head back to Dubai on a visitor visa and had made up his mind he’s quitting cricket. Things turned out quite differently after finding out his name has been blacklisted for employment since he left from his former job within a month and had little time to stay in the UAE.
After a short stint in Dubai, Asif returned to Kerala in disappointment until the news broke about his name being listed in Kerala’s squad for the 2017-18 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. He made his debut versus Goa and his raw pace caught the attention of former cricketer and commentator, L Sivaramakrishnan. Both Thomson and Sivaramakrishnan helped Asif get him listed on Chennai Super Kings’ (CSK) trials, bowling to ace batsmen like Suresh Raina and Murali Vijay.
Photograph credit: Chennai Super Kings
Thanks to the trials, KM Asif was purchased by Chennai Super Kings for INR 40 lakhs (AED 202k) and made his debut in the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) 2018 edition versus Delhi Daredevils, accompanied by cricketing greats including MS Dhoni, Shane Watson, Faf Du Plessis and Imran Tahir. Here’s what he told ESPNCricinfo:
“Watson told me, ‘I’ve heard you’re a very good tennis-ball bowler. Think this is tennis-ball cricket, just bowl fast, don’t worry about being hit.’ That calmed me down,” says Asif. “On match day, Dhoni bhai put his arm on my shoulder and told me to not worry, ‘even if you bowl four overs and give 40 runs, no problem. This is your chance.'”KM Asif
Photograph credit: BCCI
Asif hoping to make it big this IPL
With three First-Class matches, 8 List-A matches and 10 T20s to his name, Asif says he’s confident putting his experience to work when he gets an opportunity this IPL, taking place in the UAE. He told the New Indian Express:
“I can play a bigger role for CSK. Last time, I hardly had played any games prior to the IPL, and so I did not have the confidence or experience then. This time, I’ve already got some experience. I believe that I will get the opportunities and I now know how to utilise them.”KM Asif
(Featured photograph credit: BCCI)