Pakistan v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup final, Mirpur March 7, 2014

Shehzad may be the long-term answer

Karthik Krishnaswamy
A lot of people have commented on Ahmed Shehzad's mild facial resemblance to Virat Kohli, but there's also a bit of Kohli about the way he sets up at the crease

On Tuesday, with a single to long-off off Abdur Razzak, Ahmed Shehzad became only the fourth Pakistan batsman to score five centuries as opener. He had taken 43 innings to reach that mark. Aamer Sohail, with whom Shehzad drew level, scored five centuries in 132 innings as opener.

It was a significant moment. Since the days when Sohail opened with Saeed Anwar, Pakistan haven't just struggled to settle on an opening pair. They haven't even managed to settle on one name as a long-term option. They have given a bunch of candidates a large number of opportunities, putting them together in various combinations in the hope that they would work. They didn't, usually.

Shehzad, however, might be different. For one, there's something about how he bats, how he looks at the crease. A lot of people have commented on a mild facial resemblance to Virat Kohli, but there's also a bit of Kohli about the way he sets up at the crease.

He has got a similar upright stance, and, in recent times, has added a back-and-across trigger movement that takes him almost to off stump by the time the bowler delivers. From that position, like Kohli, he often plays the off-stump ball into the leg side off the quicker bowlers.

Shehzad's follow through isn't as wristy as Kohli's, though, and his drives through the off side are achieved with a full-faced punch rather than a bottom-handed swish. At this stage of his career, he doesn't have the range of strokes Kohli does, and his strike-rate isn't nearly as impressive, but all of this, perhaps, might come in time. 

But apart from the way he looks, Shehzad has done enough in his still young career - even though he made his ODI debut way back in 2009 - to suggest he's different from other Pakistan openers of recent vintage.

There have been two other openers in Pakistan's recent history who have averaged over 35 and scored multiple hundreds. Both of them, however, have been India specialists. Five of Salman Butt's eight centuries as opener came against India, and two others against Bangladesh.

All three of Nasir Jamshed's centuries, meanwhile, have come against India. He averages 45.52 in Asia and 22.47 elsewhere. Jamshed probably deserves more chances at this stage in his career, but we don't know yet if he'll make it or not.

With Shehzad, though, you get the feeling he will. His five centuries so far have come in four different continents, against five different opponents. It's a good-looking list: New Zealand in Hamilton, West Indies in Gros Islet, South Africa in Port Elizabeth, Sri Lanka in Dubai, Bangladesh in Dhaka.

He took a while to get going against Bangladesh. When he reached his half-century, off the 87th ball he had faced, Pakistan were 127 for three. At that point, they needed exactly 200 runs to win from 133 balls.

From there, Shehzad accelerated with a flurry of boundaries, and took just 30 balls to go from 50 to 100. After the match, when everyone was asking him about the Shahid Afridi blitz that powered Pakistan over the line, Misbah-ul-Haq had to remind them that other batsmen had played a role too. "After his fifty, the way he [Shehzad] picked up the run rate, it was almost 10 an over and he brought it down to eight. In the end it was a great combination of all these batsmen who really won us the game."

Afridi does that to cricket matches, and to entire tournaments. It's sort of slipped under the radar that Shehzad is Pakistan's highest run-scorer in the Asia Cup, so far, and that he stands a chance to finish at the top of the pile overall. But if he keeps scoring runs as he has been, over recent months, Shehzad won't stay under the radar for too much longer.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Android on March 9, 2014, 18:18 GMT

    Kohli is immensely talented guy but you have to consider that he played most of his games at home, for Ahmed, I doubt, of he played any.

  • Raj on March 8, 2014, 10:47 GMT

    He is nowhere close to this stage of his career kohli was averaging 48 and shehzad average is only 35 with very low strike rate too...

  • handeep on March 8, 2014, 10:05 GMT

    he is good batsman ,,,,,, but some guy here is saying' he is 1000 times better than kohli'... please be reasonable and honest guys, if he is 1000 times better than kohli, then he should have scored 19000 tons by now

  • Dummy4 on March 8, 2014, 9:26 GMT

    He is nowhere close to Kohli.. You are disrespecting indian vice captain by comparing shehzad with him...

  • Android on March 8, 2014, 7:08 GMT

    He is 1000 time better than kohli.

  • Dummy4 on March 8, 2014, 6:32 GMT

    He is a talented guy. Lucky that he got so many chances. Otherwise they don't let anybody settle.

  • Dummy4 on March 8, 2014, 6:27 GMT

    Shehzad to compare with Kohli is a little bit wrong to Shehzad because Shehzad has his own Identity in International Cricket. he is rising Star of Pakistani Cricket and He will much better than Kohli in near Future.

  • Mohammad on March 8, 2014, 5:28 GMT

    Yeah he looks the one who can overcome it for Pakistan- the opening conundrum.

  • Dummy4 on March 8, 2014, 5:04 GMT

    Shehsad reminds me of Virat Kohli!

  • Furqan on March 8, 2014, 4:27 GMT

    His strike rate has improved in recent times as he has grown in confidence and it will go even higher. He is more clear in his mind with his batting because of the consistent run given and he has permormed as well. Not to forget his 147 against Srilanka in 3rd test where he set up the match scoring some quick 100 runs after his fifty from almost 150 balls. Also he is good in all formats.

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