Self-belief. Tenacity. Passion. All qualities required by an international cricketer in droves. To reach the pinnacle of his goals, an international sportsman must overcome many an obstacle but it is maintaining that peak that requires mental fortitude.
The recently concluded PCB Patrons XI 3-day match versus West Indies at Sharjah Cricket Stadium initially held high hopes for Test players, Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmad Shahzad and Shan Masood. With Hafeez getting out for a duck in the first innings and 9 in the second, his concerns are far from over.
However, with Shan Masood posting a respectable 58 before being run out and Ahmad Shahzad’s first innings tally also crossing the half ton mark, both were considered to be viable for a Test recall. The Test squad announced the following day, omitted both of them. On the third day’s play, Shan Masood scored 9 runs from 47 balls before getting out lbw. Ahmad Shahzad was caught after scoring 4 runs from 10 balls.
The difference in scores between the two innings was accentuated by their body language – that great gauge for the media. On Day 1 both were driven by hope of a place in the Test squad, as well an internal competition hinged on the possibility that one player would go through. Day 3 was highlighted by the knowledge that they would have to return to the grindstone that is domestic cricket.
Shan Masood was reflective after the first innings, saying he was disappointed that “For the first time ever, I was run out in 1st class cricket.”
In the final session, a practical Shahzad changed his sunglasses, saying that seeing the pink ball under the lights was difficult. Windies batsman Shai Hope echoed that sentiment, telling the press the stadium lights did not aid the challenges of reading the pink ball.
With the Australia tour looming on the horizon, domestic cricket or the Bangladesh Premier League would be the last opportunity for either player to show some form.
However, Test captain Misbah-Ul-Haq’s statement to the press, “We hope to have a settled team before leaving for Australia,” does not leave much hope for additional selection.
For inspiration, any player looking to get back into the squad, need look no further than former captain Shoaib Malik. Having been in and out of the team for several years, in answer to a journalist’s question in Sharjah last week, Malik conceded that recent, consistent selection has allowed him to focus on his performance.
Both Shan and Shahzad can take hope from senior journalist and 400 Tests veteran Qamar Ahmed. Appreciating the sometimes demoralising nature of international cricket, he says “It is difficult to be motivated if you are a newcomer but if you are established, have lost form and been replaced, it does not take much time before you get back into the team again.
Speaking to ARY News, both openers expressed a willingness to work hard and confidence in returning to the dressing room. For any player, in moving from the back foot to an attacking position, perhaps the absence of fear is the most important attribute of all.