Ahmed Shehzad needs to learn to play for the Pakistan cricket team, not for himself

Published: September 19, 2017

Ahmed Shehzad slaps one square, Pakistan v World XI, 3rd T20I, Independence Cup 2017, Lahore, September 15, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

Recently, Ahmed Shehzad bagged the Man of the Match award in the last T20 match against the World XI along with a fancy bike to feature in his latest selfies. Good for him! However, his performance during the whole series raised more doubts than confidence in him.

Shehzad managed to make a score of 89 off 55 balls in the final T20 match, therefore it may seem criminal to criticise him at this stage. However, I strongly believe that he was scoring runs in the series for himself, rather than the Pakistan cricket team.

Pakistani batsman Ahmed Shehzad hits a six during the final T20. Photo: AFP

To be very honest, Shehzad holds the most vital position in the batting order for the T20 format. It’s not like he makes much use of it but I feel he is somehow clinging on to it for his own benefit. When he walks out to bat, the boundaries are vacant with only two fielders patrolling the covers like lonely soldiers at a porous border. Field restrictions for the first six overs allow ample opportunities to openers around the world to bag some quick boundaries – but not to Shehzad. He likes to keep the boundaries for later and survive the first six overs like it’s the last time he will get to bat.

The team needs a flying start in the powerplay but Shehzad thinks that it’s okay to preserve his precious wicket far more than that.

Ahmed Shehzad and Babar Azam put on a century stand, Pakistan v World XI, 1st T20I, Independence Cup 2017, Lahore, September 12, 2017. Photo: AFP

By the end of powerplay overs in the first two T20 matches against World XI, Shehzad had scored 12 runs off 13 balls and 16 runs off 19 balls respectively. That’s a paltry strike rate of 92 and 84 respectively, at a time when even a little piece of wood on the ball can easily pierce the inner circle and award you a boundary. Playing at less than one run per ball in the powerplay of a T20, with a batting-friendly pitch, is far from impressive. It should rather be declared a felony.

Ahmed Shehzad laid a solid platform for Pakistan with 43, Pakistan v World XI, 2nd T20I, Independence Cup 2017, Lahore, September 13, 2017. Photo: AFP

The unfortunate part isn’t the fact that Shehzad was unable to score quicker, but rather that he chose not to score quicker. His approach has been overly cautious in recent times across all formats of the game. He seems to be setting himself up for something big and spectacular, but while we all anxiously wait for that moment to arrive, it clearly never does. By the time the team is in dire need of hitting runs, he more often than not lofts the ball into a fielder’s hands and returns to the dugout, leaving much of the work to be done by others.

Pakistan team celebrate their series victory. Photo: AFP

Before I get called out for ignoring his most recent 89-run innings off 55 balls, let me dig right into it. Shehzad did indeed fare far better in his last outing in the series against the World XI. I do appreciate the fact that he realised to play at a higher strike rate as a courtesy to his team and the country. However, everyone who watched the match knows that if those three consecutive sixes in the 18th over did not come out of the blue, Shehzad’s inning was failing to provide any momentum to the team’s total like always.

Pakistani batsmen Fakhar Zaman (L) and Ahmed Shehzad run between the wickets during the match. Photo: AFP

Shehzad has made it a habit to keep playing well within his comfort zone to accumulate runs next to his name but those runs mostly come at a heavy price for the team as a whole. We got away with a series win this time but to beat the best in the business, Shehzad will need to play more selfless cricket. He needs to realise that a quick fire 50 at the top will help the team’s cause a lot more rather than meandering for runs throughout the innings for a higher individual score.

Since Sharjeel Khan has been taken out of the equation for selection, Shehzad will most likely feature in the side for years to come. I hope he plays more like he did the last time and less like his typical self-centred innings that tortures the fans like nothing else.

Hamza Junaid

Hamza Junaid

The author is an avid cricket follower and plays for a team called Gladiators based in New York. He tweets as @hamza_junaid1 (twitter.com/hamza_junaid1)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Israr Khan

    Hamza Junaid I agree with ur analysis and appreciate ur attention to detail :) v good grip over his style of playing and his inngs building, looks like u r in love with him :)
    Right so lets comments on ur article… i agree with u that he was mostly playing for himself he was v low on confident and what do u expect of him, played one game in champions league and then dropped … fakhar zaman grabbed chance with both hands and smashed ahmad out of the team the 50 over limited games … ahmad shehzad was told to play in this manner against world 11 as that was not an international series against another country … now he has got his form back and is favoured by sarfaraz it will be interesting to see if fakhar zaman and azhar ali retains their positions in odis…fakhar can bowl some left arm overs as well which gives him edge over likes of nawaz and fahim ashraf .. he plays at the top of the order and smashes almost run a ball in 50 overs… t20 he is our warner so he stays … ahmad played v well he played according to situation with babar and zaman in form and malik / imad used as hitters both ahmad got away with his snail paced two inngs and by third he used 1 over to get himself back with good stk rate.. i like his style of play it was unfortunately the misbah era that destroyed him i still think he can up the pace a bit and he will inshaAllahRecommend

  • Hassan Mirza

    The Pakistani Resident have mind set which is every Pakistani is individual not team player. today any news paper can see from a sweeper to prime minister YOU CAN SEE I DID THIS OR THAT NOT USE ANY WORD WE AS A PAKISTANI DID THIS OR THAT. IN CRICKET TEAM OF PAKISTAN AS WELL CAN SEEN SAME MIND SET.Recommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    Israr Khan Thanks for your support and detailed insights on the subject! I do agree that Shehzad was a great player when he entered International cricket. He was a stylish and aggressive opener but during Misbah era he molded himself into this timid opener that he is now. I don’t agree with the fact that he was regaining his form, he has been playing this style of cricket for so long now despite being given numerous chances. He needs to get himself out of this defensive mindset and play his natural strokes that he once used to have.Recommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    I would agree that we tend to think of ourselves first then the nation. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Hassan Mirza.Recommend

  • Nasir

    I have also drawn exactly the same conclusion after watching Ahmed Shezad .The way he played, it looked as if he is not playing for the team but for cementing his position at the cost of team’s interest. His approach was clearly self centered. In contrast Fakhar played for the team. Pakistan does need self centered players who play for themselves.
    I don’t know whether the coach/ selectors keep an eye on this aspect.Recommend

  • MSQ

    Couldn’t agree more. Sometime back while talking to Misbah about Shehzad he was of the opinion that Shehzad wasn’t the same batsman as before after being hit on the head in a Test match against New Zealand. That I guess made him go timid in his approach.Recommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    Thanks Nasir for sharing your thoughts! I also hope the coach informs shehzad to learn to shift gears in his innings according to the team requirement.Recommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    I heard about him being hit on the head too. I hope he can overcome his timidness and play his strokes at will like before.Recommend

  • Waqas

    Very well written,100% agree with you. He has now cemented his place for atleast next 2 series and will get back to his original style :)Recommend

  • Parvez

    Can’t really blame him …… he has spent most of his formative years playing under Afraidi.Recommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    Thank You Waqas. We can only hope he gains confidence and plays more for the team and worry less about his own stats.Recommend

  • Hamza Junaid

    Hi Parvez. I would not associate it all with Afridi. He played under Misbah as well with not much of a difference. The fear of failing is holding him back I think.Recommend

  • BM

    I generally refrain from reading blogs because they are only opinion based but the author has put some good arguments in this case. well written ! I think Pakistan needs another opener like Sharjeel. Shehzad is too slow and usually ends up being counter productive for Pakistan. I don’t know why Pakistan has invested so much time in him. He wont ever be Kohli, he can only act like one.Recommend