Mohammad Shahzad Mohammadi
January 10, 1987, Nangarhar, Afghanistan
Also Known As
Right hand bat
One of the most entertaining batsmen in the Associate cricket world, and one who never shies away from theatrically celebrating even the most mundane milestones, Mohammad Shahzad is a throwback player to a time when a bulging waistline would be excused by most coaches and selectors as long as it coincided with a bulging runs column on the scoresheet. Shahzad has proven his worth time and again with a series of thrilling batting displays, often producing his own version of the helicopter shot, and his fearlessness at the crease makes him one of the few Associate batsmen capable of standing toe-to-toe against Full Member opposition.
Shahzad had yet to make his debut when Afghanistan's magic carpet ride took them from WCL Division Five in 2008 to three straight promotions up the Associate cricket ladder, but he proved to be a valuable addition to the squad at his maiden tournament, the 2009 World Cup Qualifier in South Africa. Needing a win in their final Super Eight match to secure ODI status for an initial four-year period, Shahzad struck 73 in a 21-run victory over Namibia. Afghanistan made that that cherished ODI status more permanent, with Shahzad at the forefront of the batting unit, most prominently in T20s. He has played a starring role in each of Afghanistan's World T20 Qualifier campaigns to secure four consecutive berths at the World T20, beginning in 2010, and he is far and away his country's career leading scorer in the format.
Due to his adventurous strokeplay and the nature of Afghanistan's membership status, Shahzad has sometimes been unfairly stereotyped as a limited-overs specialist but he has an adaptable technique to play long-form cricket too. Eleven days after his 64* off 46 balls ensured a successful chase against Ireland in the 2010 World T20 Qualifier final, Shahzad engineered one of the greatest heists in first-class history, scoring a fourth-innings 214 not out to overhaul a target of 494 in a 2010 Intercontinental Cup match against Canada.
The one blemish on Shahzad's ledger is linked to his weight, which has been a fluctuating concern under different management regimes. The short and stocky wicketkeeper received a major wake-up call when he was left out of Afghanistan's final 15-man squad for the 2015 World Cup on fitness grounds by then coach Andy Moles. The sting of missing Afghanistan's maiden appearance at the ICC's showpiece event in Australia and New Zealand spurred him on to a wondrous revival and at the end of 2016 he was named the ICC Associate & Affiliate Cricketer of the Year, the first Afghan to claim the honour.
In January 2017, Shahzad achieved a rare feat of scoring two T20I half-centuries in a day, leading Afghanistan to victories over Oman and Ireland in the morning semi-final and evening final of the inaugural Desert T20 Challenge in Dubai. It would later emerge that in a drug test taken just days earlier, Shahzad tested positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol, which Shahzad claimed to have inadvertently ingested through his use of the weight-loss supplement Hydroxycut. After a provisional suspension started in April 2017, he was retroactively suspended for one year and became eligible to play again on January 17, 2018.
Peter Della Penna
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