Shadab Khan is unarguably the most discussed name in Pakistan cricket at the moment. His rise to international is not really a surprise. He is one rare individual whom Wasim Akram saw bowling in nets and patted Islamabad United manager’s back saying, “Great pick”. The Sultan of Swing gives all credit for Shadab’s discovery to the co-managers of the franchise, Rehan Ul Haq and Hassan Cheema.
Shadab showed glimpses of his talent during the second edition of Pakistan Super League (PSL). But, Rehan identified his potential seeing him bowl in Rawalpindi back in 2015. “Before the draft of inaugural edition of PSL, I saw Shadab playing in Rawalpindi and I found him really exciting,” Rehan Ul Haq recalled. “I discussed him with my co-manager Hassan Cheema and he told me that he is already aware of that player and that kid is a brilliant cricketer, so we decided to keep track of his performance,” he added.
They tried to have him in the ranks in first edition of the PSL, but unfortunately PCB did not include him in the draft. “We wanted to have Shadab Khan in the team in the first season of the PSL as well,” he told. “We planned to pick him in the supplementary category but we later came to know that he was not in the draft,” he added.
Still, they did not give up on him and kept him under the radar, he was a part of United’s long term plan. They picked him in the supplementary category in second season’s draft and wanted to make sure that he plays. “We were determined to include him in Islamabad United and we got the chance to pick him as a supplementary player in season two,” he shared. “He was our long term target, we wanted to include him in the playing XI, so we asked the PCB about activation of supplementary players, they told us that Islamabad United is falling in the budget cap necessary for activating supplementary players.”
Shadab Khan did not have an ideal start to the PSL, he was bowling from wide of the crease which was making him less effective. The coaching staff identified the problem and Dean Jones, head coach of Islamabad United, talked to him and explained what he was doing wrong. The young lad is a quick learner and a great adapter, he then bowled from closer to the stumps, the change in his performance was evident afterwards.
Dean Jones and Wasim Akram supported him when he was not doing that well, they told him his mistakes and he rectified them, “His willingness to learn & adaptation sets him apart from other players,” Akram told. “Shadab is the real deal. I didn’t know much about him but when I saw him in the nets I realized he is something different, something special,” he added.
Googly is any leg-spinner’s weapon and Shadab has got a lethal wrong one. No batsman has really been able to pick it from his hand so far. He has worked extremely hard on this delivery and has nearly perfected it with very little help from others, “Saeed Ajmal just helped him with the pace, he advised him to bowl the wrong’un a bit faster. Shadab loves learning, he has worked a lot on his googly and has nearly perfected it,” Rehan told. The 18-year is well aware of the fact that top sides will decode his go-to-delivery at some point in time, thus he needs to develop himself, “He wants to learn new things, he has developed his flipper in front of me. Shadab’s willingness to learn makes him special and he knows that he can be decoded so he keeps some back up plans as well.”
Shadab, who once was a fast bowler with tapeball till his club’s president saw him bowling leg-breaks with cricket ball, is a fighting cricketer from inside out. He strives to improve himself and it is not all natural, he works hard on his skills as well as his mental and physical strengths. It was quite visible when he was bowling to Marlon Samuels at a crucial stage in second T20 against West Indies. The middle-order batsman was well-set and Shadab was aware of the situation that he has to get rid of him and he did exactly that.
The reason why he is effective under pressure is because he trains like this, “During practice session, he just does not keep bowling, he makes scenarios in his mind and then bowl accordingly. In fact Dean Jones used to give him situations like bowling last over with 14 runs to defend and then see how he is bowling,” United’s manager told. “It is not all natural talent, he has worked extremely hard on his skills and molded himself into a player that can perform on big occasions,” he added.
Pakistan can find a useful allrounder in Shadab Khan. Interestingly, unlike other leggies who idolize Shane Warnes or Abdul Qadirs, the young man is inspired by Aussie skipper, Steve Smith. It somewhat depicts his love for batting and eagerness to become a good fielder. He is a thinking cricketer and has good batting sense. He is not a slogger, he loves to rotate strike and is quite flashy between the wickets. Shadab, from an early age while playing with his friends or cousins, loved to chase, he believes that chasing helps you build the inning better, he can perform the role of a finisher for Pakistan.
He is a competitive individual on the field, whether he is bowling, batting or fielding, he always gives his hundred percent. The man has complete believe on himself, got massive support from his local foreigner teammates. Rehan Ul Haq had an interesting incident to share, “Shane Watson once came to me and asked me to tell Shadab that there is no need to bow down if someone comes harder at him or gives him a stare, he is a better cricketer than all of them and he needs to know that.”
Although, Shadab has arrived in international cricket with a bang, there is a fear among Pakistan fans that he might get over-coached. The distinction of the young leggie is his rawness, if you try to tweak him too much, he might end up losing his individuality and his natural bite. All he needs at the moment is proper guidance from the coaching staff about game awareness.
Pakistan have a long history of ruining talented players. He is just 18 years old at the moment. He has a perfect start to his international career, but there will surely be bad days in his career. He will need management’s and fans’ support at that time. It is Pakistan’s culture that they make someone hero in a day and makes him a villain the next day. Talents like Shadab need more exposure, they should not be pressurized following a couple of poor performances, otherwise, Pakistan can lose another rising star.
Wasim Akram sees a future superstar in him, he believes that he has a long career ahead of him for Pakistan, all he needs is hard work and fans’ support, “I hope Shadab realizes this is just the start, he will have off days but that is when he needs to show character and that is where we as a country need to be his support.
“He is a gun fielder & has all the skills a modern day cricketer requires, he just needs to stay humble & keep working hard. He shouldn’t think this is it, this is just the start, he has to think of playing cricket for Pakistan for another 15-20 years.”
Rehan is an extremely proud manager, although social media is criticising him for taking credit of his discovery, he is denying any such claims. He believes that credit should be given to Shadab’s brother who sacrificed his love for cricket for his younger brother, his family who always backed him and his club’s coach for letting him be who he was. However, he accepts the fact that he is biased about the emerging cricketer and want him to succeed, “I am definitely very happy for him, I am proud seeing him play because I know him personally, I have spent time with him and I know that how good he is and he is finally proving in the grand arena. I will be open about it that I am biased for him, and not just for him I am biased for all Islamabad United’s youngsters as they belong to my team, I have a bond with them.”
Shadab Khan is undoubtedly a bright prospect for Pakistan cricket, but he is not world class yet, he has to go a long way, he needs to be groomed. He looks like a suitable player for limited overs format, but if he is retained in the Test squad, irrespective of he plays or not, he can learn a lot in the likes Misbah Ul Haq, Younis Khan and other teammates as Pakistan’s long format’s team is very professional and hard working.
Disappointed Pakistan cricket fans are seeing a ray of hope in Shadab Khan, players like him can back bring Pakistan’s lost glory in cricket field. But for that, he needs to grow, he needs to be focused and he needs to back himself.
Rehan Ul Haq has a simple advice for him, “Stay grounded, if you have one or good bad matches it is not the end of the world. And having a couple of good matches does not mean that you can relax, you need to keep developing yourself.”