Jamshed bridges Pakistan gap
One day, Nasir Jamshed could become the missing link between Umar Akmal and Azhar Ali among men who carry Pakistan's batting into the future: the bridge between flair and fortitude, between roulette and rock. He is that rare young Pakistan batsman who contains the two contrasts within him, and yet seems natural. The kind whose hitting does not appear to be desperate. The kind whose defence does not appear to be sedate.
This was a Twenty20 international all right, but the blend of assurance and aggression suggested again that he should probably be playing in the top order across all three formats for Pakistan in time to come. He has a solid defence and is also a quite competent and eager puller, which he showed when he deposited the seriously quick Adam Milne over deep fine leg for six.
The brawn and the clip to midwicket have brought comparisons with Graeme Smith, but on Sunday, Jamshed displayed his variety on the off side. His wrists put so much timing on two Nathan McCullum deliveries that both sailed over for six over the deep extra cover rope. No wonder former Pakistan captain and commentator Ramiz Raja called his 56 the "most cultured knock" of the World Twenty20 so far.
Jamshed has given enough demonstration of his unique talent in his short international career, which has already seen him suffer injuries, get dropped and make a comeback. The first phase, as an 18-yeard old in 2008, started and ended with a brace of fifties, including one against India. He was out for nearly three years before forcing his way back for the Asia Cup in March through performances on the domestic circuit and in the Bangladesh Premier League. Since then, he averages more than 50 in ODIs, and has already had three century opening stands in seven games with fellow opener Mohammad Hafeez, including 224 against India in the Asia Cup.
Hafeez, the Pakistan T20I captain, was sitting on the sidelines of Jamshed's post-match press conference, watching the young batsman soak in the admiration from the media. Jamshed, who comes across as a grounded man, spoke with a boyish happiness that betrayed that he is still well short of turning 23.
"I really enjoyed batting with the captain, Hafeez," Jamshed said. "The kind of confidence I got from the captain, I want to have partnerships like the one I had with him today. I am the captain's choice and I am enjoying it here. He has given me a lot of confidence." Hafeez smiled broadly in satisfaction at these words, a captain silently acknowledging his part in the coming good of a talented tyro.
Jamshed was asked about the various strokes he played in his innings. "I am a stroke player that is why I am playing shots like these," was his simple answer in English, before he explained further in Urdu. "From when I started batting I was never scared of anything, whether it is opposition bowlers or pressure. I just try to handle the pressure and enjoy my game. I just go out there and shuru ho jaata hoon [just start playing]."
He made it sound too simple but at 22, Jamshed already knows what it takes to regain a place in the side. "I was confident while coming back as everyone was saying that when Nasir Jamshed comes back he'll be an important player," Jamshed said. "I have improved my game and today I showed those skills in the match.
"We just wanted to stick to our plans despite the loss of wickets. I wanted to control the game because I was the set batsman at the time. I wanted to take as much of the strike as possible and score as much as I can." Control the innings. Set batsman. Mature terms to use at 22. He could be the missing link after all.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo