KARACHI: There is an unmistakable aura about Shadab Khan. An extraordinary debut in the 2017 HBL Pakistan Super League has catapulted him on the threshold of international cricket after the teenaged spinner was named among 31 players for the West Indies ODI and T20 series training camp.
Shadab was undoubtedly the find of the PSL Season 2 after impressing many people while playing for dethroned champions Islamabad United for whom he bagged nine wickets in eight matches as well as making useful runs apart from exhibiting his all-round talent with breathtaking fielding.
In an exclusive interview with Dawn on Friday, the 18-year-old from Rawalpindi expressed his delight at being called up for the national camp, which starts from Saturday in Lahore.
“At this point in time I am actually lost for words and just don’t know what to say really. The feeling of joy is uncontrollable because my family is very happy for me,” Shadab said a few hours prior to leaving for Lahore by road. “Almighty Allah has been very kind to me thus far.”
An introvert by nature, Shadab has made rapid strides just a year after emerging as one of the star performers at the ICC Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh. Since then he had toured England and Zimbabwe with Pakistan ‘A’ and grown in stature. At Bulawayo last October in only his third first-class match, Shadab not only picked up nine Zimbabwe ‘A’ wickets but also struck 132 off 161 balls to play a pivotal role in Pakistan ‘A’s eight-wicket win.
Hailing from a family, which settled down in Rawalpindi about nine years after moving from Mianwali where Shadab was born on Oct 4, 1998 and second youngest among five sisters and three brothers, he remains very modest about his development as a cricketer of great promise.
“I’m very lucky to find some wonderful people who became cricketing teachers. Sabih Azhar [head coach of Rawalpindi region] has been my mentor from the day he spotted me from obscurity when I was playing tape-ball cricket in the streets. Whatever I have achieved is mainly because of him,” Shadab revealed.
“And then when I was picked for the Under-19 World Cup, I came across Mohammad Masroor, who was our head coach. He gave me confidence to express myself with without hindrance, as he did the same with all other players in the squad. We reached the semi-finals where we lost to [eventual winners] West Indies.”
When asked what made him take up the game, Shadab said it was after he watched legendary Australian spin wizard Shane Warne play.
“In fact, I was captivated by the way he delivered the ball. I started practicing for hours by imagining as if I was him. Nobody said anything then and I became good enough to bowl in actual matches we played in those days,” he said.
“But when Sabih bhai took me under wings, he advised me to make minor adjustments. I used to rush up the crease, but Sabih bhai told to relax by slowing the bowling action and this change has given confidence because I’m more assured than before. Otherwise, I’m my own coach! And unlike Warne, I see myself as an all-rounder, batting or bowling. I’m a great admirer of [Australian skipper] Steve Smith. He was someone I met in a Dubai hotel lift briefly during the PSL.”
Shadab didn’t play the opening PSL match for Islamabad and did not take any wicket in the first three games he played. But thereafter he made such an impact that everybody took notice as Misbah-ul-Haq, who skippered Shadab on his List ‘A’ debut during the Pakistan Cup last year, encouraged and backed him to the hilt.
“I was nervous at the start for obvious reasons — presence of so many stars whom I hardly knew before. But Misbah bhai told me to calm down and simply enjoy the limelight. Wasim Akram and Dean Jones were tremendous help. Brad Haddin, Shane Watson and Sam Billings were also very supportive both on and off the field and get over my nervousness,” Shadab remarked.
“The sort of international exposure PSL provided me was just awesome. Watching the routine ethics of these international players spurred me to emulate them. My father, who works in Dubai, also inspired me when he came to see some of the matches.
“Among the wickets I took in the PSL, I thoroughly enjoyed dismissing the Akmal brothers [Kamran and Umar] and Babar Azam. I had Umar out with a googly of which he had no clue at all after feeding him with a couple of leg-breaks. I told Misbah about my plan beforehand that ‘Insha’Allah I get his wicket with a googly’ and the captain backed me. Regardless of what people say, I found Misbah an ideal captain for a leggie because he backs you to the hilt.”
About his future goals, Shadab remains optimistic. “I have left my education incomplete after doing Matric and would at least like to have a degree. Both my brothers are now working as engineers but I love to be a good student as well as a good enough cricketer.”
Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2017