Cricket

Published on March 31st, 2017 | by Suraj Choudhari

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Is Shadab Khan Pakistan’s latest spin sensation?

One doesn’t need to speak about the arduous life a bowler lives in this batsman dominated game, where the balance is heavily tilted in favour of the batsmen. The competition gets even tougher when it comes to the format of uncertainties like Twenty20. A bowler has to be on target and can hardly afford to make any error in T20 cricket. With the emergence of franchise based T20 leagues, the level of exposure to domestic cricketers has risen massively. It’s been serving as an ideal platform for the budding talents to showcase their talent on a grand stage and get spotted.

T20 leagues have often unheralded players, in fact, it has a reputation of doing so. Tournaments like Indian Premier League, Big Bash, and PSL have been a boon to cricketers like Shaun Marsh, Manish Pandey and much more. Shadab after an impressive performance in the PSL, was picked for the Twenty20 International (T20I) series against West Indies and the 20-year old has repaid the repository of selector’s faith with a bang.

Shadab has been incredible in his two international appearances for Pakistan, where he bowled with unmatched confidence. He had a dream debut for a spinner in the first game Barbados where he scalped three wickets and conceded just seven runs in four overs. in fact, he overshadowed the likes of Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir and Imad Wasim. Such was the impact of a potent and talented Shadab. And one shouldn’t forget, all this happened against World T20 champions and in their own backyard.

West Indies are acknowledged for their prowess in the shortest format, and the fact that they have won the World T20 title on a couple of occasions corroborates the belief. Decimating a champion side in their own backyard on a single occasion can be a flash in the pan but doing it, again and again is no joke. Yes, Shadab stepped a foot further and bagged four wickets in the second encounter and helped Pakistan defend a modest total of 132. Four wickets in as many overs is mind-boggling; in no possible way, Pakistan can lose this series now. In fact, they might be eyeing a probable whitewash.

Pakistan have had a reputation of producing quality spinner, with google or the wrong’un being their massive weapon. Shadab’s presence is no surprise. But the fact that, he is getting the ball do so much at such tender age is creating doubts in many team’s minds. Shadab gets his wrong’s to turn as much as he turns his stock deliveries. It may be too early to judge him as of now, but batsmen were finding it really difficult to pick him from the hands. He varied his length wisely and hit the right areas, which was surprising for a bowler with limited domestic experience. Though he may be decoded in future, but as of now, Shadab continues to win hearts of cricket purists and testifies the value of spin bowling in this format as well.

West Indian bowlers did a commendable job in restricting Pakistan to 132. Visitors certainly needed an exceptional bowling performance, actually miraculous, to defend such a measly total. After a shaky start, Chadwick Walton and Marlon Samuels steadied the West Indies ship with utmost precaution. Samuels was unstoppable while Walton was smartly rotating the strike. At 60 after 8 overs, very few would have anticipated West Indies to mess up the run-chase, which is when Shadab struck.

Shadab delivered a lethal googley, which Walton failed to pick and was looking to flick. He had no idea whatsoever as the ball rips through his defence and kisses the leg stump; Walton looked bewildered and Shadab ecstatic. This was the start of a dramatic collapse; exactly six balls later Imad Wasim caught Lendl Simmons leg before and Pakistan were now contemplating a possible comeback. But it was the big man, Kieron Pollard, next to the crease.

On the fourth delivery, Pollard looked to break the shackles and take on Shadab. As because, that is the way you don’t let spinners settle. A batsman needs to rotate the strike, use his feet and keep hitting odd boundaries or a spinner will play with your mind and eventually outfox you with his guile. Pollard dances down the track, but Shadab got his top-spinner to pitch just short enough for it to turn away from the right-hander. Pollard missed the ball completely, hence no connection after which, Sarfraz Ahmed got the bails off in a flash to pull things back.

Shadab wasn’t done yet, Rovan Powell walked out and had a task in hand. Things were dicey out in the middle, another 20 runs would have seen West Indies in comfort while Pakistan needed another wicket to take command. Shadab goes with the arm-delivery and Powell is too late to get his bat down. The ball hits the offstump and Shadab was on a hat-trick though he didn’t achieve it.

West Indies were in all sorts of trouble but they had their crisis man, who thrives under pressure, at the crease. Yes, that man was Samuels, who played match-winning innings in both the T20 finals that West Indies won. He was looking in good touch and was expected to bail West Indies out once again under pressure. But Shadab had other ideas. On the very last delivery of his spell, Shadab milked the prized wicket of Samuels to turn the game totally in the favour of West Indies. Once again, the googly does the trick, and Samuels is history. Jason Holder fought hard but couldn’t manage to carry his team over the line as West Indies lost the battle by 3 runs in the final over.

Shadab has left a mark in his two appearances and apart from Shadab’s excellence with the ball he is a livelier on the field. Watching Shadab on the field is a joy to behold. He is quick and capable of producing a wicket with his quick reflexes out go thin air. What lies in the future for Shadab is a mystery, but he is certainly making his chances count at the moment and looks hungry for more. With two more matches to go, the onus of making a comeback is now on West Indies, but Shadab is slowly instilling confidence and making his case stronger for future recommendations.

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About the Author

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Suraj Choudhari is a freelance sports journalist. He is an avid follower of the game and played the sport at club level. With a radical understanding about the subtle nuances and intricacies of cricket, he tries to express it through paper and pen.



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