It isn’t often that 19-year old players create a huge ruckus in International cricket. But Pakistan’s sensational young leg-spinning all-rounder is sure turning heads with his performances at the highest level. Once described as “pure gold” by Wasim Akram and Dean Jones, Shadab Khan is building on his promising exploits for Pakistan A.
At 19, there is no dearth of passion in the young player. Against Sri Lanka in Dubai during the second One Day International, the talented all-rounder hung around with centurion Babar Azam to make a half-century of his own and guide Pakistan to a respectable (later, match-winning) total.
At this age, you would think that the youngster would go back, replay his innings on his mind while fielding and be content even if his team wins or loses. But Shadab Khan isn’t your average 19-year old kid. His tenacity and composure coupled with his ability to adapt to game situations make him one among the many lines of fine young players Pakistan have unearthed over the years.
He outsmarted Dinesh Chandimal with a well disguised googly that beat the middle-order batsman’s defence and crashed into his stumps. Milinda Siriwardana would follow next over, with yet another exceptional googly and Akila Dananjaya got a taste of his own medicine yet another over later when the leggie dislodged his bails. In three overs, the terrific leggie had taken three wickets and Sri Lanka were effectively left grappling.
Shadab, who won the Man of the Match award, isn’t getting carried away by all the attention, though. Not content with his contribution in one match alone, Shadab expressed his desire to win the player of the series award. Talk about ambitions at this age!
He isn’t averse to being the star of a whole series either. In his debut T20I series against the West Indies, he grabbed 10 wickets in three games and was awarded as the Player of the Series. In fact, on his debut, he grabbed figures of 3/7 in four overs, making it the most economical four-over spell in the history of T20 Internationals.
The debut had come on the back of some noteworthy performances in the Pakistan Super League for Islamabad United led by Misbah-ul-Haq. In the under-19 World Cup prior to that, Shadab had finished as the joint highest wicket-taker.
Dean Jones, who has seen him at close quarters had commented that Pakistan had found a “special” talent. “He is an interesting player to coach and I have said this before as well, that for an 18-year-old-kid he has the head of a 30-year-old on him. He has pretty much hit the ground running and yes, he will get whacked a few times in his career but Pakistan have something special there.”
Although he did make a Test debut against West Indies this year, the gigantic presence of another leg-spinner, Yasir Shah, holds Shadab back in the longer formats. But time is very much on his side. At 19, he has a long career ahead of him and is making all the right hubbub.
Unlike modern day spinners who prefer to dart the ball in, Shadab isn’t scared to give the ball a few revolutions and idolizes the likes of Shane Warne, Mushtaq Ahmed and Amit Mishra. “In my younger years, I liked the way Shane Warne bowled. I used to watch him bowl a lot on television and wanted to bowl just like him although I also respect Amit Mishra the Indian spinner a lot”, Shadab had revealed in an interview.
His ability to extract turn and bounce on most surfaces stand him in good stead especially with the kind of wickets rolled out in UAE, where Pakistan play their home matches. His biggest weapon, though, remains the wrong ‘un, which comes out near perfect every single time.
“I depend a lot on my googly which is also referred to as a mystery ball nowadays. To further perfect this ball, I have been working with Mushtaq Ahmed at the NCA who has worked a lot on refining my action and making it more repeatable”, the rookie wrist spinner had said.
That he did not have early guidance or coaching means that his action, wrist position and everything else is fairly uncluttered. “Khud hi hoon (I am my own coach),” Shadab had said in an interview. “When I started cricket I did not know much, but then slowly I gained experience, came to NCA. They (Qadir and Ahmed) used to tell that as a legspinner it is important to give flight if you want wickets.”
While he says that he worships the likes of Warne and Mushtaq, he establishes that he likes Steven Smith a lot, something which points to his ambition of performing well with the bat as well. He gave a good account of himself in the second One-Day match against Lanka, grinding out a fabulous half-century in testing conditions.
With Yasir Shah, Imad Wasim and quite a few other spinners vying for chances in the playing XI, Shadab does not have a free entry. But with performances like the one in Abu Dhabi, he has all but put his case forward in bold.