Mazher Arshad is a Pakistani statistician and journalist based out of Lahore. He has covered various Test and ODI series as a TV statistician, and has earned a reputation as one of cricket’s leading stats gurus.
Not long ago during the first edition of the Pakistan Super League in 2016, Hasan Ali, the best bowler of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, was ridiculed in a press conference.
A journalist called him a goat, an insulting remark thrown at him for being an amateur.
Peshawar Zalmi’s management, the franchise Hasan plays for, took the player away in protest and barred the journalist from future media talks until he apologised.
It was not that Hasan had performed poorly on that day. The derogatory remark was passed because it was thought his fame was not enough to give the press a headline.
A few months later, Hasan made his international debut at Malahide and since then has accounted for 39 wickets in ODIs, the most by any pacer in that period.
On the evidence of his performances in the last year, it won’t be wrong to suggest that he is the most promising bowler Pakistan have unearthed since Junaid Khan in 2011.
The turnaround in Pakistan’s performance after losing to India in their Champions Trophy opener has largely been down to him as suggested by his two player-of-the-match awards against South Africa and England.
Pakistan had experienced bowlers in the form of Mohammad Aamir, Junaid and Wahab Riaz, but it is Hasan who has been leading the pace attack.
However, the next game, the final against India, is set to be the biggest match of his career and the expectations from him will be higher than ever. Hasan knows its importance and aims to have a match-winning role in the tournament finale.
"As a cricketer from Pakistan you grow up dreaming of a victory against India and to be a performer in that match," Hasan told cricket.com.au ahead of the final.
"I am getting another opportunity to play against India and will give my level best to play a match-winning role in it."
The 23-years-old has 10 wickets in the tournament but numbers sometimes don’t paint the full picture.
In every match that Pakistan has won he has broken partnerships and at key moments when the batsmen looked set to take the game away.
Of his 10 wickets just one, Suranga Lakmal, has been from the tail. The other nine are Yuvraj Singh, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, Wayne Parnell, Kusal Mendis, Asela Gunaratne, Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes.
"I enjoy all my wickets but the one I enjoyed most was Eoin Morgan’s because the team needed it badly," he said.
"My father follows and understands cricket. Before the match against England when I talked to him he told me he would want me to get the wicket of Morgan because he was the batsman in form."
Hasan was born in Gujranwala, a city that is approximately 80km north from Lahore.
It is largely famous for Pehalwans (the wrestlers) and has not produced too many cricketers. Last month, Hasan became just the third Gujranwala-born Test cricketer after Imran Nazir and Azhar Khan.
He easily has the potential to be the most eminent sportsperson from Gujranwala and could inspire many to take up the sport in the city.
"I was born in Gujranwala. It is true that the city is famous for wrestlers but the people have lot of interest in cricket too," he said.
"The boys are mostly into tape-ball cricket but my brother suggested me if you want to play cricket then you should do it properly therefore I played the leather-ball cricket.
"The people back home love me. When I am there they especially come to see me. They consider me to be the identity of the town which is quite an honour for me."
Hasan’s inspiration that made him a fast bowler is the former Pakistan legend Waqar Younis but he took up the sport due to his older brother Ata-ur-Rehman, an opening batsman who was also a first-class cricketer.
The right-arm paceman credits all his success to his brother to who he also dedicated his player-of-the-match award from the semi-final victory against England.
"I took up cricket due to my brother," Hasan said. "Whatever I am today is because of him.
"When I started playing cricket my brother and myself had set certain goals and I have been quite successful in achieving those so far.
"I won’t say that what I have achieved was my dream. It was my goal. And my brother has helped me in achieving those."
A pleasing aspect of Hasan’s game is his ability to produce reverse swing, once the signature of Pakistan fast bowlers.
In an age when 300 is considered to be a par score, Hasan has conceded just 78 runs from 150 balls at an economy rate of 3.12 in overs 11-40 in the Champions Trophy and has also taken six wickets in that phase.
He’s been well supported by Junaid, who off his 48 balls has leaked just 19 runs and taken four wickets without conceding a boundary.
"Reverse swing is the identity of Pakistan’s cricket and in today’s cricket it is very important to have this skill otherwise you struggle," Hasan said.
"I learned this art in domestic cricket. I am trying to learn it more day by day and I am hopeful that I will be able to revive the reverse swing in Pakistan cricket."
The Oval historically has helped reverse swing bowling and that is one advantage Hasan and other Pakistan bowlers can draw from the venue.
Pakistan were thrashed by 124 runs in their tournament opener and have lost 13 out of 15 games to India in ICC tournaments but Hasan believes that he and his team has the ability to change the trend and beat their arch-rivals in the final.
"Since we have been on a winning streak we won’t be under pressure in the final," he said. "We will just play positive cricket like we did in the previous three games.
"I will try my best to continue the performance and win the final."
Pakistan have not won a global ODI tournament in two-and-a-half decades.
It was in 1992 when they last lifted the silverware – the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand – and Hasan was not even born yet.
But on Sunday he will be carrying the hopes of millions of people to bring the elusive trophy home.
The nation of 200 million people will be banking on him to deliver one more match-winning spell.
A year ago people thought him to be a goat. If he wins the Champions Trophy for Pakistan he'll be on his way to becoming the ODI GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) for Pakistan.
Champions Trophy 2017 Guide
Squads: Every Champions Trophy nation
2 June – New Zealand v Australia, No Result
4 June– India beat Pakistan by 124 runs
5 June – Australia v Bangladesh, No Result
6 June – England beat New Zealand by 87 runs
11 June – India beat South Africa by eight wickets
12 June – Pakistan beat Sri Lanka by three wickets
18 June – Final: Pakistan v India, The Oval (D)
19 June – Reserve day (D)