There are very few players who can be good on and off the field.
Shan Masood is one of them, blessed with a proper grooming at home and well educated. He exudes the kind of confidence which, if given proper chances, can go places.
Shan’s in-and-out career took the right kind of fillip last year. He compiled a brilliant fighting hundred at Pallekele as Pakistan chased down their highest-ever target – 377 to be precise – and clinched the three-match series. From a struggler, this lithe 26-year-old became a hero.
Shan now faces a big challenge next month as Pakistan prepare for a four-Test series. He is optimistic, as well as determined.
“We are prepared to take the challenge. If you see recently at Pallekele, Pakistan had never ever chased a record total, two batsmen got out and I accepted the challenge,” he told media on the sidelines of Pakistan’s training camp.
Shan cites example of England captain Alistair Cook and others who have shined in England.
“England captain Alistair Cook has just completed 10,000 runs in Test matches. Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla have scored in England so I will also try to give good performance in England and make name for my country,” he promises.
England, where our “flat track” bullies have mostly struggled, poses real challenge for sub-continent batsmen, near fatal for openers. When you consider the fact that only four Pakistan openers – Mohsin Khan, Mudassar Nazar, Amir Sohail and Saeed Anwar – have managed to score a hundred in 47 Tests the country has played in England – the signs are ominous.
A set of openers is the one which builds the innings. But Pakistan openers have managed only three century stands in England points towards lack of success at the top. That makes the forthcoming tour more challenging for batsmen. Mohammad Hafeez is the only of the openers – if he gets fit and selected – is the only experienced, but has played only one Test in England, in 2006.
If Hafeez fails in his race against time, then Masood will be the most experienced, having played seven Tests. Maybe his experience of playing first-class games comes handy.
“My best experience there was that I played three first class matches through my university,” said Shan who studies Sports Management Science at the Loughborough University.
“It was a decent standard of bowling. I played against Liam Plunkett and Ajmal Shahzad, who have played for England. It does help, but it will be different ball game, everyone knows England team is very good and we have to take our A game there,” stressed Shan.
Pakistan probables have been training well since last month’s boot camp in Abbottabad. That highlighted the difference between the fit and the fittest. Here too, Shan stood out. He along with controversially left out Fawad Alam were the best in fitness.
“Preparations are in front of everyone, from Pakistan Cup to this camp. In between we did an Army camp in Kakul, where lots of stress was laid on our physical fitness. It was a two-week camp. Here in Lahore, barring the weather, we are getting the conditions that we will have there in England. Pitches are being prepared more what we will be getting in England. Duke balls are also there, PCB has taken good initiative and the preparations are on right track.”
Asked about the lack of consistent chances he got, Shan admitted regularity is key to success.
“I’ ve got a good start and also gave one or two match winning performances, but real thing is that if you want to move forward in international cricket you have to have consistency.
“If you look at young players around the world, among those some are even captains like Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson, Steven Smith and Joe Root they all have taken responsibility and have consistency in their game with which they have 30 Test matches in three years and I have seven. I have to work on my weaknesses and I will be a consistent player for Pakistan.”
Countering a reputed bowler like James Anderson will be a paramount challenge for Pakistan batsmen. The Lancastrian has completed 450 wickets in the Chester lee Street Test against Sri Lanka, 18 in the two matches so far.
It was Anderson who dismissed Shan in all the four innings he played in the series in UAE last year. But this time Shan promises a better show.
“If he (Anderson) had come to UAE with the thinking that he could perform, I can also go to England with the same mindset, challenge is like that. “
The promise, the determination and the will is strong. Rest will have to be proven on the pitch.