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‘Playing for Pakistan after PSL was only a change in the kit’s colour’

‘Playing for Pakistan after PSL was only a change in the kit’s colour’

It is an overcast day in Lahore and unlike most days, a slight breeze draws people outdoors. Shadab Khan had promised his availability for an interview at midday, but it has been half an hour since we have been waiting for him outside the Players’ Block of the National Cricket Academy. Upon inquiry from the administration, we get to know that the 18-year-old is attending a lecture, a part of the High Performance Camp organised by the PCB for 27 players.

It is Shadab’s last day in the camp as he will leave for the Caribbean Premier League in a few days. After some waiting, that had been made bearable by the wind, the 18-year-old strolls out of the picturesque structure along with the other participants of the camp. But unlike his campmates, Shadab is followed by a young cricket enthusiast who is eager to click a selfie with him.

Cricingif eventually got a chance to speak to the exciting young all-rounder, and this is what he had to say.

You weren’t a renowned figure like you are right now at the start of this year. The PSL brought you to the limelight and then you made a fantastic debut in the international cricket with seven wickets in two T20 Internationals. You also made vital contribution in Pakistan’s Champions Trophy success in the field and with your leg-spin. How has been this journey so far?

When I was leaving for the PSL I had told a friend that this is an opportunity for me to make it to the national side. The exposure in the league is quite similar to the one at the international level as you get to rub shoulders with big players. I had to leave a mark on that stage. I am grateful to the Almighty for everything that I have achieved till now. I think my parents’ prayers have a big role to play.

You mentioned PSL and without a doubt the league has played a significant role in your meteoric rise. What have you learned from the league that you are implementing in the international cricket?

The PSL was just like international cricket. There wasn’t much pressure on me when I was debuting for Pakistan as I had witnessed everything during the league. It was only a change in the colour of the kit for me. There wasn’t much pressure of the crowd and camera as I had been exposed to them in the PSL.

Every young player idolises someone. Who did you idolise when you were growing up?

I like Steve Smith. On my first day of the PSL, Steve and I were together in a lift in Dubai. There was another guy with me, probably Amad Butt. I don’t remember properly. I did not meet Steve at that time like a fan would normally do. Rather I wanted to let him know that he is my favourite when we played against each other. So when we had a warm-up against Australia before the Champions Trophy, Mickey [Arthur] inquired about my desire to meet him as he knew that I was his fan. He then introduced me to Steve.

Most of the leg-spinners develop the googly after they make it to international cricket. But you, on the other hand, have risen to fame because of your sharp googly. People claim that it is as good as the legendary Abdul Qadir’s. What made you aware about this delivery and how did you develop it?

My elder brother and I used to play at home and I used to bowl leg-spin and fast. My brother used to keep informing me about the leg-spin variations. But I gained the most under Mushtaq Ahmed’s coaching, after joining the NCA.

 'I like Sarfraz as my captain as he is aggressive on the field just like me' - AFP

'I like Sarfraz as my captain as he is aggressive on the field just like me' - AFP

Yasir Shah told Cricingif that you two practice googly and other leg-spin variations together. In a recent interview, Yasir Shah suggested you to play more and more four-day cricket to improve your game.

He is like an elder brother to me. Yasir, Mushi bhai and I do our drills together and we enjoy it a lot. If he is saying that then it must be in my benefit. I will try to feature more in four-day cricket.

You made your Test debut under Misbah-ul-Haq in the West Indies. He was also your captain during the PSL in Islamabad United. How has been your experience with Misbah?

Misbah-ul-Haq was my captain in my first List-A game in the 2016 Pakistan Cup. I was the man-of-the-match in that match. He liked me from that point. My Test debut wasn’t that impressive, but I intend to make the most of the opportunities in the future.

You have Sarfraz Ahmed as your captain in the ODI format. Sarfraz is credited for uniting the side and achieving what hadn’t been achieved before: the Champions Trophy title. How do you find Sarfraz as a captain?

He is very aggressive on the field which I like a lot, because I also stay aggressive on the field. I am quite a character off the field though. But having an aggressive captain makes me feel good.

And sometimes he gets angry when you bowl the googly too often.

Not really. It is not about bowling the googly. He is put off when I do something wrong.

But some have said that Shadab bowls the googly too often and that may get him exposed.

Teams have video analysts to deconstruct you [so bowling googlies often is not an issue]. For me, I try to do what I know.

You made your ODI and Test debuts in the West Indies. But how did you feel when you were about to take on India in the first Champions Trophy match?

I was a bit under pressure but I was able to bowl well. I got a lot of confidence from my captain and team management.

 The wicket of Joe Root in the semi-final against England goes down as Shadab Khan's favourite Champions Trophy moment. - AFP

The wicket of Joe Root in the semi-final against England goes down as Shadab Khan's favourite Champions Trophy moment. - AFP

During that match, India were cruising at 136 without a loss when you broke the opening partnership. Though it was off a full-toss but how did it feel to be the person behind the first breakthrough Pakistan got in that tournament?

I was really happy. The nature of the delivery doesn’t matter. A dismissal is a dismissal. Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma were playing really well and I broke their partnership. It doesn’t matter what the ball was. A wicket is a wicket.

You have had a great Champions Trophy journey and it ended on a high note for you when you forced your captain to review the LBW shout against Yuvraj Singh. That moment set the whole social media ablaze as people wondered how can an 18-year-old possesses this much confidence?

My captain and my team management give me a lot of confidence and I felt that it had hit the pad first. The doubt was only between whether it was the bat or the pad first. I told Saifi bhai [Sarfraz Ahmed] that it is pad and he trusted me.

There have been a lot of memes about that moment where you were pointing towards the pad. There is one particular meme that says, “Leave my bag, it has Islamiat book in it.” How does it feel when your performances turn you into a social media sensation?

It gives me a lot of pleasure and I have also seen a lot of them.

Which is your favourite?

“Don’t touch my phone, let it charge.”

What was your favourite moment of the Champions Trophy?

When I removed Joe Root in the semi-final. He is the best in the world and I got him out when Pakistan needed his wicket.

You are not only a good leggie but also a decent fielder. You are also a handy batsman below the order. How focused are you on the fielding and batting?

I am putting a lot of focus on my batting because I came into cricket as an all-rounder. So I am trying to play as an all-rounder. Regarding my fielding, the grounds in which I fielded in my earlier days groomed me. Anyone who can field in those grounds can field in these [international grounds].

Any player who holds the ball for the first time at the international level has some goals for himself. What goals have you set yourself?

I want to play for Pakistan for as long as I can. I don’t want to be a burden on the team. I just want to perform more and more for my team.