World T20: Is there a lifeline for Ahmed Shehzad?
Dropped from the World Twenty20 squad and now hauled up for a bust up with Pakistan teammate Wahab Riaz, things just keep getting worse for Ahmed Shehzad.
Shehzad has not had it easy in the last couple of months. His attempts to brush off the ‘bad boy’ image and truly transform into Pakistan’s top batsman have largely been futile, and his dipping form finally led to his axing from the T20 squad.
No. Not even an endearing friendship with captain Shahid Afridi could save the ‘Pakistani Kohli’. That last bit is obviously a taunt by fans who have just run out of patience.
First, let’s turn back the clock to assess Shehzad’s career with a bit more depth.
It was two months after his 15th birthday that the young batsman, from Lahore, entered the domestic cricket scene.
In the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy (Gold League) match he made his First-class debut in 2007 for Lahore Shalimar against Karachi Harbour. Failing to enter the double figures in the first innings, the right-hander impressed with his calm 42 in the second.
His prowess with the bat pushed his case for Under-19 selection and just months later, Shehzad scored 167, in his first Youth Test match against England to chase down 367.
Soon, he became Pakistan U-19’s regular opener and featured in two Youth World Cups.
Two years later, Shehzad, now 17, made his senior team debut against Australia. After a few initial hiccups, he became a permanent member of the Pakistan side, scoring his first ODI century against New Zealand at Seddon Park on February 3, 2011.
Since then, he has opened for Pakistan in two World Cups and has been a part of two WT20 squads, in 2009 and 2014.
Failing to get ample opportunities in the 2009 edition and being overlooked for the next two editions, Shehzad left a mark at the 2014 WT20, as, he became the only Pakistani to score a hundred in the shortest format against Bangladesh on March 30, 2014 at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium.
Since then, he has been Pakistan’s highest run-getter in the T20s. From March 2014 until Pakistan’s last T20 at Westpac Stadium, New Zealand last month, he has amassed 413 runs at 24 with a strike-rate of 117 in 18 innings. Umar Akmal is placed second on the ladder with the same amount of runs with one innings more.
During the time period Pakistani batsmen have scored just 8 fifties. Shehzad scored one of them during the Zimbabwe’s historical tour of Pakistan last year. Mukhtar Ahmed and Umar Akmal scored two. Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, and Sarfraz Ahmed scored one each.
Shehzad’s T20 average climbs to 30, in ‘Asia’ and only Sarfraz Ahmed has a higher average of 33.
Despite the fact that Shehzad started his career in 2009, three years after Pakistan made its debut in the T20 format, he is the fifth-highest run scorer for Pakistan.
He has the third best strike-rate among the top five batsmen. Mohammad Hafeez tops the chart with 1514 in 71 innings and averages lesser than Shehzad.
Pakistan were knocked out in the quarter-final stage by West Indies in 2014. It was the first such instance that Pakistan did not make it to the Semi-Finals of the WT20. Prior to the 2014 edition, the team had played finals of the first two editions and the semis in 2010 and 2012.
Ahmed Shehzad was once again Pakistan’s top scorer with 138 runs at a striking average of 46. He scored 1.62 runs every ball and his average and strike rate were better than the rest of the Pakistani batsmen.
Just after he was ignored for the Asia Cup and WT20, Shehzad reacted by scoring 41 off 31 with five fours and a six. After the early fall of Luke Wright and Kevin Pietersen, he steadied the ship with skipper Sarfraz Ahmed and took the Gladiators across the line.
Four days before Pakistan announced their squad, Shehzad hit an electrifying 71 against Islamabad United as the Gladiators chased down 147 on a stiff Dubai wicket.
In his five PSL matches, thus far, the Gladiatos’ opener has scored at the rate of 142.6 with the average of 30.
Shehzad’s axing doesn’t make much sense.
The team has shown a downward trend since November, last year. From being number 2 in the format, Pakistan has dropped to number 7 after being at the receiving end of the 0-3 whitewash, by England, and 2-1 series loss, against New Zealand.
Overlooking Shehzad is akin to making him a scapegoat for the team’s below par performances.
Moreover, with the announcement of uncapped Khurram Manzoor as his replacement the team management and the selection committee has shaken the team’s balance to its very core. The upcoming WT20 may turn out to be as devastating as the last year’s World Cup, where Pakistan failed to finalise its opening pair until it was ousted by Australia in the quarter-final stage.
But, there maybe a lifeline yet for Shehzad. The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Saturday revealed that squads maybe changed until March 8 ‘without a formal approval’.
Pakistan have yet another opportunity to add the right men to their squad. Will they?
Read More: Sports News Pakistan
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