Saud Shakeel: There were nerves, but I was lucky that I found a few odd boundaries
Saud Shakeel’s career will definitely improve when he isn’t forced to find a way to “fit in.” while he would like for that to begin with his performance in Pakistan’s World Cup opener against the Netherlands, a 52-ball 68, he guided Pakistan’s comeback with a counterattacking half-century and a 120-run partnership with Mohammad Rizwan for the fourth wicket.
Saud Shakeel’s career will definitely improve when he isn’t forced to find a way to “fit in.” He would like for that to begin with his performance in Pakistan’s World Cup opener against the Netherlands, a 52-ball 68.
Even though Pakistan won by 81 runs to begin their World Cup campaign on Friday, it was far from their best performance, particularly with the bat.
They were restricted to 286, which, according to Mohammad Rizwan, the team believed would be a winning total. It was, however, significantly below par and one that gave their opponents reason to be pleased with their bowling performance considering the scores around the range of 350 that were recorded at the same venue over the two warm-up matches in the last week.
Shakeel entered the game when Pakistan was in serious trouble. Once more, Fakhar Zaman was hit by a full, swinging delivery and this time he chipped the ball back to the bowler.
Babar Azam pushed Colin Ackermann’s innocent delivery straight to the mid-wicket fielder, reducing the side to 38 for 3 in the 10th over, while Imam-ul-Haq registered another low score.
With plenty of overs remaining and the team in difficulties, Shakeel had the chance to create a good impression while batting at No. 5.
Despite a shaky beginning, he guided Pakistan’s comeback with a counterattacking half-century and a 120-run partnership with Mohammad Rizwan for the fourth wicket, which laid the groundwork for Pakistan’s final score of 287.
“There were nerves. But I was lucky that I found a few odd boundaries. Sometimes it happens that you find such boundaries, it makes it easier for you. I was clear in my mind that I wanted to attack and play positive cricket. Rizwan Bhai’s role was to go long but my plan was simple. I had focused on a few bowlers from the Netherlands. If I had to hit from above, I would take a chance. I did that. I took a chance. I was trying to stay positive and kept attacking the bowlers I had targeted,”Shakeel said about his knock.
He served mostly as a backup for Agha Salman, who provided more bowling talent, in the recently concluded Asia Cup. But in Pakistan’s opening World Cup warm-up match against New Zealand, he created a strong impression with a stylish 53-ball 75.
Despite Salman missing the opportunity to participate in the second warm-up, Pakistan chose to start Shakeel over Salman since they already had five frontline bowlers in their playing XI and had the added part-time option of Iftikhar Ahmed to use.
However, he admits,
“I knew sometime back that I would play this match. I played a warm-up match and I had good batting there.”
The 28-year-old left-hander, who plays with a lot of freedom, has not had much success in limited overs. Ahead of the World Cup, he had only been able to appear in six ODIs since making his debut more than two years ago.
Due to his stellar performance in Test cricket, he was chosen for the 50-over team itself as a way to improve the middle order’s problems. But a format change called for some batting growth.
“I think it [Test cricket] is the most difficult format, you know that. So, when you perform well there, you gain a lot of confidence,”Shakeel said after his match-winning performance on Friday.
“I think I performed very well in the Test matches, so my confidence level was very high.
“But at the same time, I was focusing a lot on my white-ball cricket. I was focusing a lot on my game. I could see that my numbers for playing for Pakistan were 5-6 (batting order). Babar Azam plays at 3 and Rizwan plays at 4. I tried to develop my game and worked hard for it. A person has a vision and works hard for it. I tried the same. I could see that I am not playing much One-Day cricket, not much white-ball domestic cricket in Pakistan in which I can prove my point. But at the same time, when I played Test match cricket for Sri Lanka, I showed that I was ready for white-ball cricket.
“It (the adjustments needed to bat at No 5 and 6) was more of a mindset change. A few years back I never used to hit big shots like this, I didn’t take many chances. I preferred to play on the ground. But I made my mindset that I have to accept one thing – the number at which you’re going to play for Pakistan. It is very important to realize that as a player. So, I made my game plan accordingly… I practiced playing sweeps and reverse sweeps.
“I tried to adapt and I think the best thing is that we came to India to play the World Cup. It’s really good here. If you settle here, you get the value of your shots. So, I think that’s in my mind. And I try to stay in good shape and keep my technique so that I don’t make shots that are too hard and I’m succeeding in that.”
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Mohammad Rizwan, Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Salman Ali Agha, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Wasim.