14th December 2014, and Ahmed Shehzad at 22 years of age scores his 10th international century. Three years on, and he hasn’t added to that number. It’s been a tricky few years for him. Where did it all go wrong?
I believe it’s a combination of factors. The widely covered area in the media regarding Shehzad is his apparent ‘discipline problems’, and it is reported that this is the reason behind his ouster from the team.
In my view, he has deeper issues then those, and there is a lot to work on in terms of his value as a batsman. If Shehzad is dropped, it should be because of his performance, and his performance of late has not been up to the mark.
Was it the bouncer that hit him in 2014? Possibly. Prior to that event, Ahmed was one of the best players of the short ball in Pakistan.
Since, he hasn’t looked as comfortable, and I believe that is affecting his overall game. It’s tough to gain back the confidence after such a devastating blow, and it takes a lot of mental courage.
However, there are a lot of things to like about Shehzad.
At a young age, he’s shown an appetite for runs. Once he gets in, he usually converts and gets a meaningful score. That notion slightly faded away in his last few international appearances, but prior to that it was a regular occurrence.
In Test cricket, he’s passed 50 six times, and on three of those occasions he’s gone on to score a century.
His appetite for runs shows his fitness is up to a high standard, and that he can concentrate for long periods. In addition to this, his fielding is also exceptionally good.
In modern-day cricket, being a competent fielder is imperative, and in Shehzad, Pakistan have one of the best.
The right-hander from Lahore is the only Pakistani batsman to score a century in all three formats of the game. Most of his centuries have resulted in wins, which shows he is a match winner, and his contribution generally leads his team to victory.
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What he needs to do now is understand his faults, and realise how he can improve in order to regain his spot in the national team.
One of the biggest issues I see in his game is his lack of strike rotation. As a result of this, his strike rate in ODI cricket is currently 72, which is highly unacceptable in modern times.
Shehzad has a decent defense and he can hit the big shots, but it’s the middle gear which he is lacking, and that’s arguably what makes a great batsman.
He needs to learn the art of playing the ball with soft hands, working the ball into gaps and dropping the ball at his feet and running. I strongly believe once he sorts this issue out, he’ll be a complete batsman.
The best example to follow is that of Virat Kohli, who is a master of attaining a single through playing the dab down to third man. Shehzad somehow needs to implement this into his game.
Moreover, another issue I see which has entered his game is pre-meditation.
This is in correlation with his strike rotation problems. He gets bogged down, understand that he needs to up the rate, and then will play a shot to a ball that isn’t there. As a result, he’ll lose his wicket.
If he’s taking those singles in-between, the scoreboard will be moving and he won’t need to play such shots. He needs to remember to play every ball as it comes, with a fresh mind. I believe he has the ability to score quickly merely by reacting to the ball.
I’ve always had a soft spot for Shehzad, largely due to watching him score a masterful 167 in England with the Pakistan U-19 side.
I then earmarked him as one for the future, and the one whom I was relatively sure would represent Pakistan at the highest level. He has a lot of problems and issues, but he is a cricketer who has performed on the highest level, therefore must be invested in and backed.
Despite all of his faults, he is still averaging a respectable 43 in Test cricket.
Shehzad needs to go back to the drawing board, and address the issues, which are highly prevalent in his game. Only then, he can be the world-class batsman he aspires to be.