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March 31, 2014

The promise of Shehzad

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

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

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Posted by android_user 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

Posted by android_user 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

Posted by 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.

Posted by 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.

Posted by   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.

Posted by 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!

Posted by 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?

Posted by android_user on (March 31, 2014, 19:51 GMT)

we will proud of u

Posted by 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.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the international editor of the British Medical Journal. @KamranAbbasi

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