Cricketer Ali Nasar Zaidi.
Cricketer Ali Nasar Zaidi. Rob Williams

'I train seven hours a day'

ALI Nasar Zaidi is not your average 14-year-old.

Whilst he shares a dream with many young cricketers his age - that is, to one day play for Australia - where Ali differs is his absolute commitment to the cause.

That is not to say other young cricketers are not dedicated to honing their bat and ball craft, but few could hold a candle to the gruelling sessions the Underwood-based Ali has put himself through this summer.

"I've trained really hard; six to seven hours every day over the holidays,” the former Young Guns cricketer said.

"It's been a team effort from my whole family. We built a cricket net and bowling machine at our house.”

Ali is not your traditional wicketkeeper-batsman.

For Met West at the recent Under-15 State Championships in Mackay, Ali came in at either three or four in the order - traditionally where your best specialist batsman sits.

He struck a championships-high 131 on the opening day of play, en-route to taking out best batsman and highest run-scorer honours. He was also named best wicketkeeper, claiming three of a possible five individual awards.

Ali's extensive training sessions are broken down into wicketkeeping, batting and even bowling spells.

He bowls right-arm fast when called upon.

"I start off with keeping, just reflexive stuff,” he said.

"Hand-eye coordination stuff first, then 'keeping to pace (bowling) for an hour, then 'keeping to spin for an hour.

"Then I spend an hour bowling, getting my line and length right. After that it's three hours of batting; gap-hitting, and then power-hitting in the last hour.”

Ali's home-made cricket nets and access to a bowling machine are a far-cry from the now legendary tales of Sir Donald Bradman's cricket stump and a golf ball bouncing off the bottom of a water tank.

But he shows a similar level of commitment to honing his craft as arguably the greatest batsman of all time.

Where player development has also changed in the almost 90 years since Bradman made his Test debut for Australia, is the need to have more than one string to your bow.

With the advent of Twenty20 cricket especially, gone are the days of batsmen practising solely with the bat and bowlers not knowing which end of a Kookaburra is up or down.

It is why Ali spends so long working on all forms of the game, to make himself as invaluable as possible.

"The game has evolved really quickly. You need to master the whole game to be the best cricketer you can be,” he said.

When he is not in the nets honing his craft, Ali takes every opportunity to watch and analyse the best of the best.

Australian Test captain Tim Paine and Victorian wicketkeeper Matthew Wade are two local talents he tries to learn from.

His favourite player at the moment is South African 'keeper Quinton de Kock.

"Generally 'keepers bat six or seven. Tim Paine at the moment bats at seven,” Ali said.

"Sometimes I don't agree with that. Matthew Wade is capable enough to play at three or four.

"Quinton de Kock is an exceptional batsman, and he's a really attacking player which I like.”