Shan Masood – Another elegant southpaw
Decent bloke, level headed, educated, intelligent, articulate, stylish lefthander, and above all ‘captain material’. Don’t these traits remind us of someone who played cricket for Pakistan in the recent past?
Yes, these traits remind us of a cricketer who gave hope to the diehard fans of Pakistan cricket when there was nothing but all doom and gloom; after Shahid Afridi’s abrupt retirement from Test cricket, at the end of Lords Test (neutral venue) against Australia in 2010.
Instead of cherishing the naïve hopes of admirers of the game, the man tore their hearts and hopes apart. The individual was none other than Salman Butt.
In 2013, after almost 3 years (since the spot-fixing fiasco), another gentleman: Shan Masood, appeared on the Pakistan cricket horizon, with similar, positive, aforementioned traits.
Test debut against South Africa
Shan made his Test debut against South Africa in 2013 at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, at the age of 24. In his first ever innings in the highest form of the game, he overcame the initial jitters and played a solid knock of 75 against the likes of Steyn, Morkel, and Philander. He constructed a 135 run opening stand for his team, along with his opening partner: Khurram Manzoor.
It was not only his debut innings, but also his interview to the media, in which he described his achievement that made the followers of the game stand up and take notice of this ‘new kid on the block’.
It was refreshing to see a young debutant from Pakistan, making a lot of ‘sense’, not only on the field but off the field as well. And it was also a pleasantly surprising experience for the supporters of Pakistan cricket; who have often seen exceptional raw talent sans basic cricketing knowledge.
Eager student of the game
Former players are often criticized for not passing their cricketing wisdom and tricks of the trade to the young emerging players. In their defence, they make a counter argument, that the current players are not interested in approaching former or senior cricketers to learn the finer details of the game.
The great Javed Miandad has never minced his words in this regard. He often says: “Thirsty has to come to the well, not the other way around”.
Shan has also shown his wisdom and maturity in this regard. The boy had no qualms in approaching the newly appointed chief selector, Inzamam-ul-Haq for a batting tip or two when he visited the recent training camp in Lahore.
Also, he has made Younis Khan his mentor. This approach towards seniors speaks volumes about his humility; not to mention his professionalism. Not only this approach will have a positive effect on Shan’s batting skills, but it will also greatly help in establishing his name in international cricket.
Not surprisingly, retired players have nothing but praise for this young lad after having an interaction with him.
Camaraderie with his mentor
Shan Masood has an excellent camaraderie with his mentor Younis Khan; which was quite evident, in the record-breaking 242 runs partnership between the two in the fourth innings of the Pallekele Test against Sri Lanka in 2015.
At the end of the fourth day’s play, Pakistan chasing a daunting target of 377, were 230 for the loss of two wickets; both Shan and Younis were not out with the scores of 114 and 102 respectively. Pakistan won the match by seven wickets; Shan with 125 and Younis with 171* contributed heavily in this series decider.
In his short career, he has already seen some highs and lows. In international cricket batsmen get a ‘howler’ from the umpires, every now and then. But Shan is one of the few unlucky ones to receive a ‘Hawk-Eye howler’ from the TV umpire.
In the second Test against New Zealand, played in Dubai in 2014, Shan was hit on his heel by the left arm bowler Trent Boult, bowling from over the wicket. The ball was slanting down the leg side, and it was impossible for the ball to come back and even kiss the leg stump. Shan, who was batting on 40 was in for a long innings, had to go back to the pavilion.
Later, the Hawk-Eye official admitted the “technical error”, but the damage was already done. Not only Shan got an appalling decision, but he was also dropped from the subsequent Test tour to Bangladesh.
England tour 2016
The 2016 Test tour to England has a lot of importance for Masood and it will be a make or break series for him. He emerged as one of the fittest players in the fitness test recently held in Lahore; so this will not be an issue for him.
There are only three regular openers in the squad; so Shan can be rest assured that he will get ample opportunity on this tour. He has represented Durham University in the past which means that the English conditions will not be alien to him.
The tough question: Will he be able to handle Anderson and Broad? Only time will tell, but for the sake of Pakistan cricket one sincerely hopes that he does; considering Misbah-ul-Haq is almost certain to hang up his boots in the near future.
And Pakistan cricket needs another individual who can be a true role model in every sense of the word, for the budding cricketers.