Ali finds his cricket home in Australia
PAKISTANI-BORN, raised in Qatar and later Saudi Arabia before moving to Australia six years ago, Ali Nasar Zaidi has travelled the world in search of his cricketing home.
But now that he is in Underwood and playing Fourth Grade for Wynnum-Manly as a 14-year-old, Ali has a completely clear view of where he wants to end up.
"I want to play for Australia. That's the ultimate goal, these are only the baby steps,” he said.
Ali was first exposed to cricket through watching his dad Shoaib play senior cricket in Saudi Arabia. With no junior cricket available, Ali was limited in his opportunities to play and compete in the sport he grew to love.
He uses memories of that time as motivation, whenever he feels fatigued or mentally drained between the seven hour daily training sessions or numerous club and representative matches and talent identification programs.
For Ali, there is no such thing as burnout.
"I really love playing, just being on the field,” he said.
"There wasn't any opportunity to play juniors like we have in Australia. So sometimes when I'm not performing well, I'll think back to those moments when I didn't have that opportunity. Now that I do, I have to make the most of it.”
Ali likens the dedication to his craft as any other profession. The difference being he is only 14, and there is no guarantee even after all his hard work, he will end up in a baggy green. But he knows that too.
"People who want to be doctors work hard, they study, then come home and study again,” he said. "This is my field, this is what I want to work in.
"It's a long journey, and some people think it can just come without hard work. But that process, and the success I've had (so far) has come through hard work and persistence.
"I love it so much I want to work on it every four, five hours.”
Ali's list of successes is already an impressive one.
He was recently offered a scholarship to Brisbane Boys College. He captains the Year 10 team, and will this season make the jump to the First XI.
To go with his three individual awards at the recent U15 State Championships in Queensland - where he was named best wicketkeeper, best batsman and highest run-scorer - Ali was recently offered a place in the Queensland Cricket Academy for a second-successive year. He was the only underage player in the program last year.
Under the guidance of Queensland's best cricket eyes, including recently-capped Test player Marnus Labuschagne, Ali was immensely grateful for the continued support.
"I'm really thankful to all the QC coaches and staff,” he said. "Especially technique-wise they've helped me a great deal.”