March 31, 2014

The promise of Shehzad

He displays a hunger for runs that bodes well for his and Pakistan's future
24

Ahmed Shehzad: good things come to those who wait © Getty Images

He cuts. He pulls. He drives. He nudges. He thrashes. And he keeps going. He even gifts his innings to the nation. Pakistan have what they have yearned for over a decade, an opener worthy of representing them in international cricket. The arrival of Ahmed Shehzad, long awaited and much enjoyed, is changing the dynamic of Pakistan cricket. If you're wondering why the never-ending winter of top-order failure and unpredictability has given way to an uplifting spring, thank the diminutive frame and abundant spunk of the amazing Mr Shehzad.

Now it's never sensible to exaggerate the exploits of any young player but Shehzad has passed two important tests of his credentials. One of my earliest memories of him is seeing him make something of a fool of himself on the winners' podium at the final of the World T20 in 2009.

Pakistan won in style. Shehzad tried to play the cool cat as he collected his medal. There was a cockiness about him that didn't fit with a player who hadn't yet achieved any personal success in international cricket. The boy had talent but it was no surprise, except to himself, when he was soon out of the team.

The first test was passed last year when Shehzad fought his way back to international cricket. He seemed a chastened fellow, willing to keep his head down and work to keep his place. Perhaps appearances were a little deceptive. The cockiness was still there but it had mellowed, and was channelled into productive displays.

And these performances have not been sporadic. Shehzad has been consistent. He has also dominated, taking responsibility to lead an innings from the top of the order. He is willing to turn a useful contribution into an influential one. And he has done this across formats, against all opponents, at an impressive strike rate. The second coming of Shehzad has been consistent with a player of world-class potential.

The step from potential to realisation is a giant one, and Shehzad has barely maintained these high standards for a year. Record books, particularly Pakistani ones, are replete with careers of great promise but little impact. Players can settle for a performance that is good enough rather than striving for excellence, especially in the modern era with its multiple formats and high rewards. But there was a hint of something more in Shehzad's century against Bangladesh, the first by a Pakistani batsman in a T20 international. He played some dazzling shots to place his team in command. When the hundred approached, he slowed down. He played a safer, more measured game to reach his landmark.

Here was a clue to the hunger for runs that has driven Shehzad's return to international cricket. Top batsmen are like the best strikers in football. A dash of selfishness is invariably a characteristic of a prolific scorer, who feeds off the confidence that each goal and every century brings. As much as Shehzad destroyed Bangladesh with his surgical strokes in Mirpur, it was that self-indulgent period before his hundred that hints at a greater career to come.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • TheProfPak on March 31, 2014, 7:33 GMT

    He is a good prospect. He, along with Nasir Jamshed (I don't think Sharjeel's exp will last long) and Sohaib Maqsood will make the future top3 in batting lineup. There is Umar Akmal who will be future no. 4. Now we need to find a classy middle-order, a genuine fast-bowling all-rounder and a dashing wk (I don't think U. Akmal will fit into that role once he is at no. 4). Moreover, we need to groom / find a couple of lethal fast bowlers. Raza Hasan will be the future spin bowler. I'm not impressed with talent of U-19 level, esp. bowlers -- they didn't look to me a special talent.

  • on April 2, 2014, 18:23 GMT

    excuse me did u just said stronger bowling of India.hahaha I know u luv ur team but u got to be realistic

  • on April 2, 2014, 17:37 GMT

    To talk about shehzad will b too premature still a long way to go, let him score agnst big nations

  • siddhartha87 on April 2, 2014, 7:49 GMT

    shehzad is decent batsman but i see no greatness in him. He averages in mid 30's in ODIs. His recent 100 against Bangladesh was nothing special.The bowling quality was low and he just rode on his luck. Too many skiers dropped in no man's land.Against the stronger bowling of India,WI and Australia he was a complete failure.

  • adnanadu on April 1, 2014, 9:08 GMT

    Why u guys make a fuss of the young and talented AHMAD SHEHZAD. He performed outside his country and made his all centuries out of his country. Give me a single name who has done it. Only he can do it. The young prospect and INSHALAH he will rock like he did early in his career so far. Even the gr8 players are not so consistent outside the country. Look at the indian team inside their country they are lions but outside they are wet cats. SO JUST DEAL WITH IT.

  • on April 1, 2014, 5:13 GMT

    1 shehzad 2 sami aslam or imam ul haq 3 sohaib maqsood 4 u.akmal 5fawad alam 6wk batsman one from peshawar israr 7 bilawal batti 8 raza hassan 9junaid 10 amir 11) talha this is the future of pakistan.

  • karachidude23 on April 1, 2014, 0:06 GMT

    @TheProfPak

    Muhammad Amir, still quite young at 22-23, is returning next year, he has so much natural ability that he will rise up to be the best fast bowler in the world quickly with God's will, that's a good bet!

  • haq33 on March 31, 2014, 21:50 GMT

    SORRY Kamran but we don't need more students of the Hafeez school of "protect your place and mention the team in your memoirs" thought. His comments and behaviour are always disappointing. When you break a record or score a hundred, don't mouth off at everyone, even if you feel vindicated inside, as it will come back to haunt you. Better to be humble and credit your teammates, as folks like Ajmal or Irfan or the older generation of batsmen would have done. It is bizarre that he is feeling like such a victim at this young age. He will wilt under pressure, just like the resident Professor Hafeez, who is now so useless that he surrounds himself with hi-fiving has-been sycophants like Malik and a newer generation like Shezad, just to support his place in the team if anyone should dare say that he be dropped for bad form. Even Broad recently accepted that if management want him gone he will go. What is Hafeez's problem? And why is Shezad sounding like a younger version of him?

  • on March 31, 2014, 19:51 GMT

    we will proud of u

  • Desihungama on March 31, 2014, 18:21 GMT

    @UsmanMuhammad - What are you on about? He is the first Pakistani and only so far to have centuries across all three formats and that too in such a short span in the company of seasoned Misbah's, Afridi's, Hafeez, among who none of them have been able to do so.

  • TheProfPak on March 31, 2014, 7:33 GMT

    He is a good prospect. He, along with Nasir Jamshed (I don't think Sharjeel's exp will last long) and Sohaib Maqsood will make the future top3 in batting lineup. There is Umar Akmal who will be future no. 4. Now we need to find a classy middle-order, a genuine fast-bowling all-rounder and a dashing wk (I don't think U. Akmal will fit into that role once he is at no. 4). Moreover, we need to groom / find a couple of lethal fast bowlers. Raza Hasan will be the future spin bowler. I'm not impressed with talent of U-19 level, esp. bowlers -- they didn't look to me a special talent.

  • on April 2, 2014, 18:23 GMT

    excuse me did u just said stronger bowling of India.hahaha I know u luv ur team but u got to be realistic

  • on April 2, 2014, 17:37 GMT

    To talk about shehzad will b too premature still a long way to go, let him score agnst big nations

  • siddhartha87 on April 2, 2014, 7:49 GMT

    shehzad is decent batsman but i see no greatness in him. He averages in mid 30's in ODIs. His recent 100 against Bangladesh was nothing special.The bowling quality was low and he just rode on his luck. Too many skiers dropped in no man's land.Against the stronger bowling of India,WI and Australia he was a complete failure.

  • adnanadu on April 1, 2014, 9:08 GMT

    Why u guys make a fuss of the young and talented AHMAD SHEHZAD. He performed outside his country and made his all centuries out of his country. Give me a single name who has done it. Only he can do it. The young prospect and INSHALAH he will rock like he did early in his career so far. Even the gr8 players are not so consistent outside the country. Look at the indian team inside their country they are lions but outside they are wet cats. SO JUST DEAL WITH IT.

  • on April 1, 2014, 5:13 GMT

    1 shehzad 2 sami aslam or imam ul haq 3 sohaib maqsood 4 u.akmal 5fawad alam 6wk batsman one from peshawar israr 7 bilawal batti 8 raza hassan 9junaid 10 amir 11) talha this is the future of pakistan.

  • karachidude23 on April 1, 2014, 0:06 GMT

    @TheProfPak

    Muhammad Amir, still quite young at 22-23, is returning next year, he has so much natural ability that he will rise up to be the best fast bowler in the world quickly with God's will, that's a good bet!

  • haq33 on March 31, 2014, 21:50 GMT

    SORRY Kamran but we don't need more students of the Hafeez school of "protect your place and mention the team in your memoirs" thought. His comments and behaviour are always disappointing. When you break a record or score a hundred, don't mouth off at everyone, even if you feel vindicated inside, as it will come back to haunt you. Better to be humble and credit your teammates, as folks like Ajmal or Irfan or the older generation of batsmen would have done. It is bizarre that he is feeling like such a victim at this young age. He will wilt under pressure, just like the resident Professor Hafeez, who is now so useless that he surrounds himself with hi-fiving has-been sycophants like Malik and a newer generation like Shezad, just to support his place in the team if anyone should dare say that he be dropped for bad form. Even Broad recently accepted that if management want him gone he will go. What is Hafeez's problem? And why is Shezad sounding like a younger version of him?

  • on March 31, 2014, 19:51 GMT

    we will proud of u

  • Desihungama on March 31, 2014, 18:21 GMT

    @UsmanMuhammad - What are you on about? He is the first Pakistani and only so far to have centuries across all three formats and that too in such a short span in the company of seasoned Misbah's, Afridi's, Hafeez, among who none of them have been able to do so.

  • Desihungama on March 31, 2014, 18:10 GMT

    He is going to bypass Hafezz to become captain after Misbah, I really do hope so. He is a fighter with cool head as opposed to defeatist attitude of Hafeez.

  • shanazpk on March 31, 2014, 18:00 GMT

    exceeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeellent!

  • on March 31, 2014, 15:46 GMT

    He has scored centuries in different conditions across different formats. It's hard to ask more of such a young player. I feel that the reason he succeeds in different conditions is because even though he has an excellent hand eye coordination, he doesn't rely excessively on it unlike Sehwag or Sanath Jayasuria. Therefore I feel he has the potential to become a much better player than these two aggressive batting legends. If only Sami Aslam/Imam Ul Haq come as good as him on the international arena. We ll have excellent left-right opening partners.

  • on March 31, 2014, 13:13 GMT

    I am a Bangladeshi., I love cricket in Pakistan since the 1992. A living legend in the world of cricket has given to this country. Hope Many more will come in the future legend. Insha - Allah. The 2014 T20 world cup and 2015 one-day world cup tournament to win the World Cup winning answer all the criticism. Insha - Allah. Pakistan cricket in the next 1 year will draw a much higher position. It is their belief in me and who loves Pakistan.

  • on March 31, 2014, 13:01 GMT

    He has been more consistent after his come back last year,. Scoring more runs and on regular basis. This innings was pure class.

    What i want more from him is to take more responsibility to finish games. In last few months we have seen him throwing away his good starts. Few times he has played rash shot just after his 50.

    But overall he has improved a lot now and a good future prospect for pakistan.

  • Dielo on March 31, 2014, 12:10 GMT

    Welcome back Kamran !! Lovely article as always.

  • on March 31, 2014, 11:53 GMT

    Well written. But he has to prove a lot. He drove his luck against Bangladesh.lets see

  • OZcrick on March 31, 2014, 11:17 GMT

    A nice write up for shahzad. I'm glad there's some one on the top of order who has to please us with his fine strokes. I have felt shahzad's urge to cope up with the international batting display. For instance i saw him trying to play a shot that AB hit for six the other day (by sitting down and playing a low hook for a fine leg six). He's innovative with his stokes which will keep him progress. He becoming successful means new batting talent to raise bar and become better batsmen. Now we lack bowling force.. we need to work on genuine fast bowlers as well. I think our new generatiion have stopped following the legends of rawal pindi express, waseem, waqar...

  • on March 31, 2014, 9:35 GMT

    @TheProfPak. the classy middle order batsman you are looking for is Fawad Alam, and the bowling all rounder could be Hammad Azam (he needs yo get matches for grooming). The point of Umar Akmal as keeper is perfect, if AB Devilliers can do it then he should learn it too, thats what the coaches do, polish the players ability. I agree with you that Raza should be front line spinner, with Mohd. Amir to return along with Junaid Khan & Mohd. Talha should be the core of pace bowling, and Sharjeel Khan is a promising batsman, and Nasir Jamshed should be batting at No.3. Sohaib Maqsood or Haris Sohail should be batting at No.6.

  • subcontinent-expert on March 31, 2014, 9:27 GMT

    "With his manicured stubble, sharp features, habit of spitting on the turf and the abllity to conjure boundries at will and essay those lofted cover drives, Pakistan opener Ahmad Shehzad looks like a clone of Indian super star Virat Kohli. Times Of INDIA march 31,2014

    Personally for us fans , it will be great if Shehzad only improves from here and we get to see the competitive batting display in INDIA_PAK encounters from Kohli and Shehzad just as it was years ago with Dravid-Yousuf-Sachin-Younis-Ganguly-Inzi......... WOW....!!!!

  • UsmanMuhammad on March 31, 2014, 9:00 GMT

    Kamran, please don't make T20 a baseline criteria to judge excellence. He has yet to prove point by scoring hundred in Australia and grind a true test knock.

  • Zahidsaltin on March 31, 2014, 8:06 GMT

    He has scored heavily against Bangladesh. To be recognised as a real talent, he needs to score big hundreds against big teams. He is only 22 and has such a big career in front to him to become a legend. Apart from Shehzad, I wanted to highlight that may be pakistani players need som more physical training as each and every batsman coming close to scoring 100, starts getting cramps and looks to be totally drained which is not the case with players from other nations.

  • haqster499 on March 31, 2014, 7:00 GMT

    Problem is he loses composure in the big games. Asian Cup final, match against India. Has to learn to play the big knocks in the big games.

    Hopefully the 100 will help build his confidence....

  • on March 31, 2014, 3:30 GMT

    Still a long way from excellence but this prospect is quite refreshing for Pakistan. He seems an accomplished batsman. Regardless of this T20 hundred, he is a ray of hope in otherwise a dark winter. May he learn more and more, the art of crease occupying and prolific run scoring. Something he should look upto Kohli/Amla for even K Williamson.

  • on March 31, 2014, 3:30 GMT

    Still a long way from excellence but this prospect is quite refreshing for Pakistan. He seems an accomplished batsman. Regardless of this T20 hundred, he is a ray of hope in otherwise a dark winter. May he learn more and more, the art of crease occupying and prolific run scoring. Something he should look upto Kohli/Amla for even K Williamson.

  • haqster499 on March 31, 2014, 7:00 GMT

    Problem is he loses composure in the big games. Asian Cup final, match against India. Has to learn to play the big knocks in the big games.

    Hopefully the 100 will help build his confidence....

  • Zahidsaltin on March 31, 2014, 8:06 GMT

    He has scored heavily against Bangladesh. To be recognised as a real talent, he needs to score big hundreds against big teams. He is only 22 and has such a big career in front to him to become a legend. Apart from Shehzad, I wanted to highlight that may be pakistani players need som more physical training as each and every batsman coming close to scoring 100, starts getting cramps and looks to be totally drained which is not the case with players from other nations.

  • UsmanMuhammad on March 31, 2014, 9:00 GMT

    Kamran, please don't make T20 a baseline criteria to judge excellence. He has yet to prove point by scoring hundred in Australia and grind a true test knock.

  • subcontinent-expert on March 31, 2014, 9:27 GMT

    "With his manicured stubble, sharp features, habit of spitting on the turf and the abllity to conjure boundries at will and essay those lofted cover drives, Pakistan opener Ahmad Shehzad looks like a clone of Indian super star Virat Kohli. Times Of INDIA march 31,2014

    Personally for us fans , it will be great if Shehzad only improves from here and we get to see the competitive batting display in INDIA_PAK encounters from Kohli and Shehzad just as it was years ago with Dravid-Yousuf-Sachin-Younis-Ganguly-Inzi......... WOW....!!!!

  • on March 31, 2014, 9:35 GMT

    @TheProfPak. the classy middle order batsman you are looking for is Fawad Alam, and the bowling all rounder could be Hammad Azam (he needs yo get matches for grooming). The point of Umar Akmal as keeper is perfect, if AB Devilliers can do it then he should learn it too, thats what the coaches do, polish the players ability. I agree with you that Raza should be front line spinner, with Mohd. Amir to return along with Junaid Khan & Mohd. Talha should be the core of pace bowling, and Sharjeel Khan is a promising batsman, and Nasir Jamshed should be batting at No.3. Sohaib Maqsood or Haris Sohail should be batting at No.6.

  • OZcrick on March 31, 2014, 11:17 GMT

    A nice write up for shahzad. I'm glad there's some one on the top of order who has to please us with his fine strokes. I have felt shahzad's urge to cope up with the international batting display. For instance i saw him trying to play a shot that AB hit for six the other day (by sitting down and playing a low hook for a fine leg six). He's innovative with his stokes which will keep him progress. He becoming successful means new batting talent to raise bar and become better batsmen. Now we lack bowling force.. we need to work on genuine fast bowlers as well. I think our new generatiion have stopped following the legends of rawal pindi express, waseem, waqar...

  • on March 31, 2014, 11:53 GMT

    Well written. But he has to prove a lot. He drove his luck against Bangladesh.lets see

  • Dielo on March 31, 2014, 12:10 GMT

    Welcome back Kamran !! Lovely article as always.

  • on March 31, 2014, 13:01 GMT

    He has been more consistent after his come back last year,. Scoring more runs and on regular basis. This innings was pure class.

    What i want more from him is to take more responsibility to finish games. In last few months we have seen him throwing away his good starts. Few times he has played rash shot just after his 50.

    But overall he has improved a lot now and a good future prospect for pakistan.