Your only competition is with yourself: Shan Masood

Shan Masood

Test batsman Shan Masood may not be the flamboyant, upturned collar, limelight-hogging type of Pakistani cricketer the average fan is used to – fair to say he is the more sedate type reminiscent of Younis Khan.

This type of player focuses more on his game than his presence on social media. Boding well for him, more often than not, a low-key persona coupled with talent usually produces a stalwart career – think Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid, Alastair Cook et al.

The unspoken question on everyone’s lips is, does Shan Masood have what it takes to make it for the long haul?

Having scored a career best 125 alongside Younis Khan in Sri Lanka in 2015 and now returning from a break of sorts since an unfruitful Test outing in the West Indies earlier this year, he is once again battling for the opening slot.

It is then perhaps apt that he is hopeful of a comeback against Sri Lanka in the UAE next month.

Keen to find out what techniques, if any, he has developed since the torrid time England’s fast bowler James Anderson gave him in the summer of 2016, we pose the query but he doesn’t give much away.

“I’ve been at home in Karachi where I’ve been fortunate enough to give time to my skills, fitness and family.”

Asked the all-important question about competing against elegant batsman Ahmad Shahzad and budding international Sami Aslam for that vital opening position, he is astute when it comes to handling potentially disruptive questions from the press.

“It’s a great opportunity for the guys to step up after the departure of Younis Khan and Misbah. Slots are open for all and competition brings out the best in everyone. As a batsman at the international level, I have to adapt to different circumstances and modify my game. What I always emphasise on bringing is consistency in scoring big runs and that’s the quest I’m still on at the moment.”

Shan’s medium pace bowling is a previously unacknowledged aspect of his game that was picked up on by the media, during a PCB Patron’s XI match against the West Indies in Sharjah a year ago.

Asked about the secret in his cricketing armoury, he laughs and it is at this point that one gets a glimpse of the real Shan, a player who keeps his cards close to his chest, but nonetheless, is working on improving his previous limitations.

“I’ve been told this by my coaches too but my days are preoccupied enhancing my batting skills.”

Spend some time with Pakistani players and compared to other teams, one is struck by the lack of in-depth knowledge of sports science.

To be fair to them, foreign teams are provided with far more resources by their respective boards, be it conditioning coaches, nutritionists or health talks.

Times are changing though, the current crop of newbies are coming in more prepared and Shan has studied sports science at the UK’s famed Loughborough University.

He is single-minded about what he eats, he searches for healthy food no matter where he is and is often surfing the net for dietary advice.

“Dedication to this healthy lifestyle has involved sacrifices and thus has toughened me up, fitness improves you both in terms of skill and the way you think.”

Playing for Islamabad in the upcoming National T20 Cup, he will be captained by fellow U19s teammate Imad Wasim. In 2007 he had been vice-captain under Imad’s captaincy.

His colleagues from that time, Imad Wasim, Ahmad Shahzad and Junaid Khan, have all tasted different degrees of success in the international arena. Compared to the other players, Shan Masood and Imad Wasim come from priviledged backgrounds.

Shan doesn’t feel that makes him any less ambitious or that it is an impediment in the turbulent environment that usually epitomises Pakistani cricket.

“I can’t change where I come from. I have had no problems settling well with anyone around me. It is a competitive environment but I believe your only competition is with yourself.”

One senses a renewed focus in him. Rather than battling with others for the much-coveted opening position, the battle appears to be within himself.