As India’s Virat Kohli rises to the top of the International Cricket Council (ICC) T20 batting rankings, Ahmed Shehzad, who was dubbed as his ‘Pakistani version’ by many, continues his long run of poor form.
His last five outings making a terrible reading: 12, 13, 8, 9, 16, so much so that former captain and fast bowling great Wasim Akram said the batsman along with Sohaib Maqsood “have disappointed the nation a lot”.
In an apparent jibe at Shehzad’s advocates, Akram said the player “cannot be selected just on the basis of the talent” while deserving players on the domestic circuit sat on the bench.
Shehzad bears an uncanny resemblance to Kohli and even remodelled his game to look technically correct.
But that is where the comparisons should end. Kohli’s backed his swagger with solid numbers and averages 51 runs per ODI.
Back in 2009, when Shehzad made his international debut, he was one of the most highly-rated finds of Pakistan’s domestic circuit.
The right-hander made his first class debut in January 2007 and in March 2008 he was representing the Pakistan U-19s in the World Cup.
Thrashing opponent bowlers all around the ground was Shehzad’s forte as he piled runs against the likes of Australia and England in youth matches.
Consistent performances earned him an ODI cap in 2009 but in 71 ODIs, Shehzad averages just 33 runs per match and has bagged only six hundreds.
In the T20 format, despite being the only Pakistan batsman to have scored a century, the right-hander has struggled to emerge as a reliable player at the top of the Pakistan batting line.
Before the series against New Zealand, Shehzad was all-praise for the New Zealand brand of cricket. “They’re playing without any fear. There are no issues with their places. They're shuffling their players,” he said.
The 24-year-old too was once a fearless batsman, before something went wrong between the ears. Former captain Aamir Sohail put it aptly.
“There is no pressure on Shehzad – or for that matter on Sohaib Maqsood as well. They both know that if they play a bad stroke or fall cheaply, they may be dropped for one game or series but they will be back again without making any effort to improve their skills or rectifying their problems. They know that they are indispensable and if that is the case, why would they work hard to fix their issues?” Sohail wrote in columns for Pakpassion.
Sohail then took it step further and turned the heat completely on the young batsman.
“If you analyse Ahmed Shehzad’s batting style, you see nothing in his game apart from a series of ugly cross-batted hoicks which can only get you so far.”
But the real problem may lie in coaches attempting to transform Shehzad into a ‘proper’ batsman. Perhaps, he is just a ‘cross-batter slogger’ and he was pretty successful when he was doing just that as his some of his early international knocks show.
Time is, however, running out for the batsman and perhaps Pakistan too should decide what they want out of their ‘Kohli’. Pakistan fans should also make up their minds on who their ‘Kohli’ really is. Shehzad or Umar Akmal? Both have failed, unfortunately.
Despite their off-field camaraderie, T20 captain Shahid Afridi recently said Shehzad really needed to ‘prove his worth’.
As Pakistan prepare to name their World T20 squad, Afridi will be a brave captain to back the young star for a place in the lineup.