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
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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

  • 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.

  • huffpost on March 8, 2014, 10:47 GMT

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

  • handeepsandhu 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

  • on March 8, 2014, 9:26 GMT

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

  • on March 8, 2014, 7:08 GMT

    He is 1000 time better than kohli.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Akhter786 on March 8, 2014, 5:28 GMT

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

  • on March 8, 2014, 5:04 GMT

    Shehsad reminds me of Virat Kohli!

  • FurqanKhan 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.

  • 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.

  • huffpost on March 8, 2014, 10:47 GMT

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

  • handeepsandhu 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

  • on March 8, 2014, 9:26 GMT

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

  • on March 8, 2014, 7:08 GMT

    He is 1000 time better than kohli.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Akhter786 on March 8, 2014, 5:28 GMT

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

  • on March 8, 2014, 5:04 GMT

    Shehsad reminds me of Virat Kohli!

  • FurqanKhan 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.

  • waqas-ahmed-qasi on March 8, 2014, 4:19 GMT

    I agree to this statement " Shehzad is a long term player" . He played some magnificent innings against tough oppositions like South Africa and Sri Lanka. But I have little concern over his batting strike rate. He takes alot of deliveries in start of his innings, hil strike rate in start of innings is almost 50 . after 60 to 70 balls he boost his inning, some times he is successful and some times he got out. I think he should maintain his strike rate above 80 in start of his inning .

  • on March 8, 2014, 2:57 GMT

    When one is young and immature, one tries to compare new players with legends of the time. For instance,in the past we have seen L Sivaramkrisha being thought of as the new B S Chandrashekhar and Manindar Singh as the new Bishan Singh Bedi. Later on Irfan Pathan was touted as the next Wasim Akram. And in all these cases, these players ended up as one or two seasons wonder.

    The author must be even more immature in that he has begun to compare Ahmad Shehzad finds himself compared not with a past legend but a present day one. That tells me that the author must be younger and more immature than those mentioned above whomade their odious comparisons in the past. As can be seen from the above examples, such comparisons act as burdens on the players and they fail to live up to them more often than not. This is a comparison Ahmad Shahzad can do without at this stage of his career.

  • mensan on March 8, 2014, 2:25 GMT

    He is talented and has good technique/temprament.

  • t20cric on March 7, 2014, 22:28 GMT

    For me after he scored the ODI century in SA I knew he was talented. Before that many people were saying he was talented but that was proof of his talent when he scored a century against Steen & co. The problem is that who will open with him cuz Hafeez, Sharjeel & Nasir have only done well in Asia(Farhat shouldn't be considered at all). Also Ahmed normally starts way too slow, if he just takes singles he would get set faster & make hiiiggggher scores

  • Syed_imran_abbas on March 7, 2014, 22:23 GMT

    He a becoming my favroute player.. So elegant and gracefull. And a excellent fielder. Carry on boy. I hope they give a chance to Nasir Jamshed and he can work out his fittnes as well. Sharjeel is more a t20 player to me. I hope nasir Jamshed makes a come back soo .

  • on March 7, 2014, 21:37 GMT

    his 5 centuries came in 43 innings but his last three came in his last 11 appearances with 2 fifties. in the beginning he was very careless young cricketer who doesn't knew the value of his wicket but now he turned in a mature head. they way he didnt even raise his bat on century to remain focus was quite impressive. not only a solution for batting trouble but with his leadership quality i am looking at a feature captain of pakistan.

  • rsiddiqi on March 7, 2014, 20:57 GMT

    What sets Ahmed apart from the rest of openers is that he is a student of the game. You see him constantly analyzing bowler wrist movements and seam positioning etc. You will never see him get bowled to a caram ball (as did Sharjeel) or a doosra. Similarly he understood very early on the swing B.Kumar was getting. Infact he even tried explaining it to Sharjeel who clearly plays on just hand eye coordination.

    In addition, he seems to genuinely have a thirst for runs and believes himself to be the solution for Pakistan's long standing operner problem. He will go far...

  • avmd on March 7, 2014, 20:56 GMT

    If Shhzad continue to improve as a cricketer, he is a potential captaincy material in 2-3 years, or even sooner. Misbah is not getting any younger and Pak doesn't have anyone to replace him except Professor, who is also 33 year old already and don't hold a spot in test team.

  • on March 7, 2014, 20:53 GMT

    He along with Nasir Jamshaid are the long term answer to Pakistan's opening sopt.

  • on March 7, 2014, 20:38 GMT

    he has proved to be good player. and looks like improving day by day. this is really amazing stat that he got to no4 in pakistani openers 100s list in just 43 innings as compared to amir sohail . he has taken 1 opening spot and i think looking good to keep it for longer.

    His positives are that he can play slow and can accelerate good at will. But most of times he has thrown his good starts away. he should have to control this issue.

    1 major reason for this is that he is slow starter. Throughout his career, there is a huge difference in no of balls taken for 1st 20-25 runs and accelerate later on. this thing can put pressure on him and others. Not saying to hit everything. just rotation of strike will work. Plus this thing puts pressure on him as well. because he tries to accelerate too much after 40-50 and some times ends in getting out.

    he has played good number of games now. so he should take responsibility more. and play according to situations. not think that 40-50 is his job.

  • bouncer709 on March 7, 2014, 19:59 GMT

    no doubt, he is best of all the young talent recently given chances in Pak team.

  • on March 7, 2014, 19:16 GMT

    I am more worried about Pakistani selectors than Shehzad, they have a long history of killing promising careers.

  • Adnan-Ahmed on March 7, 2014, 18:41 GMT

    He is also excellent in the field...something never to be taken lightly when it comes to Pakistan.

  • on March 7, 2014, 18:39 GMT

    I absolutely agree with the fact that shehzad is a long term prospect for pakistan...he is a complete package and will improve significantly in future ...people would say that he is no match for kohli but in reality he has a very good chance of competing with kohli..he is just 22 at the moment and he has a very good chance of becoming a great of the game..he will be the answer for pakistan's opening trouble...with that he also is a great fielder..he has shown he is not a flat track- only batsman like many other sub continent batsman as he has performed overseas aswell...i wish Best of luck to Ahmed shehzad...

  • Islamic on March 7, 2014, 18:31 GMT

    Quality player! just need to increase his range of strokes and stop being selfish.

  • mzm149 on March 7, 2014, 18:25 GMT

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

  • on March 7, 2014, 18:23 GMT

    Shehzad is indeed a great prospect for Pakistan. hopefully he wont fail like others before him!

  • LeftBrain on March 7, 2014, 18:00 GMT

    nice read, and impressive stats, 5 centuries in 43 innings tells you a lot about talent of the guy. Hope he comes good in future and provide solution to tis never-ending opening slot problem for Pakistan

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  • LeftBrain on March 7, 2014, 18:00 GMT

    nice read, and impressive stats, 5 centuries in 43 innings tells you a lot about talent of the guy. Hope he comes good in future and provide solution to tis never-ending opening slot problem for Pakistan

  • on March 7, 2014, 18:23 GMT

    Shehzad is indeed a great prospect for Pakistan. hopefully he wont fail like others before him!

  • mzm149 on March 7, 2014, 18:25 GMT

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

  • Islamic on March 7, 2014, 18:31 GMT

    Quality player! just need to increase his range of strokes and stop being selfish.

  • on March 7, 2014, 18:39 GMT

    I absolutely agree with the fact that shehzad is a long term prospect for pakistan...he is a complete package and will improve significantly in future ...people would say that he is no match for kohli but in reality he has a very good chance of competing with kohli..he is just 22 at the moment and he has a very good chance of becoming a great of the game..he will be the answer for pakistan's opening trouble...with that he also is a great fielder..he has shown he is not a flat track- only batsman like many other sub continent batsman as he has performed overseas aswell...i wish Best of luck to Ahmed shehzad...

  • Adnan-Ahmed on March 7, 2014, 18:41 GMT

    He is also excellent in the field...something never to be taken lightly when it comes to Pakistan.

  • on March 7, 2014, 19:16 GMT

    I am more worried about Pakistani selectors than Shehzad, they have a long history of killing promising careers.

  • bouncer709 on March 7, 2014, 19:59 GMT

    no doubt, he is best of all the young talent recently given chances in Pak team.

  • on March 7, 2014, 20:38 GMT

    he has proved to be good player. and looks like improving day by day. this is really amazing stat that he got to no4 in pakistani openers 100s list in just 43 innings as compared to amir sohail . he has taken 1 opening spot and i think looking good to keep it for longer.

    His positives are that he can play slow and can accelerate good at will. But most of times he has thrown his good starts away. he should have to control this issue.

    1 major reason for this is that he is slow starter. Throughout his career, there is a huge difference in no of balls taken for 1st 20-25 runs and accelerate later on. this thing can put pressure on him and others. Not saying to hit everything. just rotation of strike will work. Plus this thing puts pressure on him as well. because he tries to accelerate too much after 40-50 and some times ends in getting out.

    he has played good number of games now. so he should take responsibility more. and play according to situations. not think that 40-50 is his job.

  • on March 7, 2014, 20:53 GMT

    He along with Nasir Jamshaid are the long term answer to Pakistan's opening sopt.