Fabled for being fit, is not often terminology used to describe Pakistani batsmen – unless you’re Younis Khan, that is. However, Pakistan cricket is known to spring a few surprises on the unsuspecting fan and the recently concluded pre-England tour fitness tests, turned expected results, inside-out.
After months of languishing in the international cricketing wilderness, the lanky, left-handed opener, Shan Masood belted a few pre-emptive strikes at his more burly teammates, by emerging as the fittest player in the camp.
A journalist’s first impression of him is usually affirmative, given that he does not fit the stereotype of the typical Pakistani cricketer. Both his height and his perfect command of English come to the fore, and with the polish of the suburban English gentleman, you would be forgiven for thinking he would be more comfortable in the hallowed nets of Lord’s, than playing Pakistan’s tape-ball street cricket. Appropriate, then, that the media sees him as one of the probables for the upcoming England tour.
His leading edge is the amount of time he has spent both studying and playing in the UK. From 2008-9 he played cricket at Stamford School in Lincolnshire. From 2010-11he was part of the MCC cricket academy at Durham University, which was coached by England’s former opener, Graeme Fowler (Fowler retired in 2015, having coached 6 captains and 6 England Internationals at the Durham Centre of Excellence. Current ECB Director of Cricket, Andrew Strauss describes Fowler as focusing on personal development, a trait lacking in several,current Pakistan players).
In 2012 Masood also played club cricket at Sevenoaks Vine Cricket Club in Kent. One of the oldest cricketing venues in the country, this wasthe former batting ground of current Australian captain, Steve Smith.
In testament to his affluent personal background, in Pakistan, Shan Masood practised at the posh Cricket Centre Pakistan. This wasrun by businessman Abdul Wahab and coached by former cricketer Sikandar Bakht. He then began attending the UBL sports complex where he was coached by former batsman Mansoor Akhtar. He played club cricket for Mohammad Hussain Cricket Club where he was mentored by Musheer Rabbani, before moving to Pakistan Cricket Club run by Omar Associates’ Nadeem Omar.
His international career, though, is not testament to his full potential. On his 2013 Test debut against South Africa in Abu Dhabi, he scored a decent 75 runs from 140 balls. His maiden Test ton came after the highest ever fourth-innings partnership with Test legend Younis Khan, in the 1st Test against Sri Lanka in July 2015. The first Test against England in Abu Dhabi later that year, was not to be a feather in his Test cap. After heading a ball onto his stumps in the first innings and dislodging his bails in the second innings, suffice to say he has not done justice to his talent. Former Head Coach Waqar Younis though, praised “…his great work ethic.”
He had somewhat of a comeback by scoring 54 runs from 87 balls in the 2nd Test in Dubai but this was negated by the fact that it was yet again, pace bowler James Anderson who proved to be his nemesis.One would hope that he does not become to Anderson, what fellow Test player Mohammed Hafeez became to South African fast bowler Dale Steyn.
The fact that Waqar Younis also spoke highly of his attitude, may not align him on the same course as his more beleaguered teammates but it bodes well now that Pakistan’s new Head Coach, Mickey Arthur, is a stickler for discipline and cricketing etiquette.
Compared to some of his more infamous colleagues, on the social media front he has kept a relatively low and sensible profile. The good news is that his Twitter account shows a healthy obsession with football rather than selfies. Fabled for being focused, augurs well for the upcoming England tour.