Shakeel Seizes Opportunity Amid Adversity


Shakeel Seizes Opportunity Amid Adversity

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Saud Shakeel’s career promises brighter days ahead, where he won’t need to fight for his place. He hopes that his recent performance in Pakistan’s World Cup opener against the Netherlands, where he scored a brisk 52-ball 68, marks the beginning of such days.

Despite securing an 81-run victory in their World Cup opener, Pakistan’s performance, especially with the bat, left much to be desired. They managed a total of 286 runs, which, according to Mohammad Rizwan, was a winning score. However, given the scores of around 350 in the same venue during the two warm-up matches last week, Pakistan’s total fell well below par, making the Netherlands’ bowlers quite content with their performance.

Shakeel came to bat when Pakistan was in dire straits. Fakhar Zaman fell victim to a swinging delivery, Imam-ul-Haq had another low score, and Babar Azam found the mid-wicket fielder with a shot, leaving the team at 38 for 3 in the 10th over.

Batting at No. 5, Shakeel seized the opportunity to make an impression when the team needed it most, with plenty of overs left to play. Despite a nervous start, he led Pakistan’s recovery with a counter-attacking half-century and formed a vital 120-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Mohammad Rizwan, setting the foundation for Pakistan’s total of 287.

Shakeel commented on his performance, saying, “There were nerves, but I was fortunate to find a few boundaries. Sometimes, you find such boundaries, which makes it easier for you. I was clear in my mind that I wanted to play positively and attack. Rizwan bhai’s role was to anchor, but my plan was simple. I had focused on a few bowlers from the Netherlands. If I had the opportunity to hit, I took it. I was trying to stay positive and kept attacking the bowlers I had targeted.”

In the recent Asia Cup, he primarily served as a backup for Agha Salman, who provided additional bowling skills. However, Shakeel made a strong impression with a stylish 53-ball 75 in Pakistan’s first World Cup warm-up match against New Zealand. Despite not getting a chance to play in the second warm-up, he revealed, “I knew some time back that I would play this match. I played a warm-up match and batted well there.”

As a free-flowing left-hander, Shakeel’s limited-overs career has been relatively slow to take off. He made his debut over two years ago but had only played in six ODIs before the World Cup. His inclusion in the 50-over side was an attempt to address middle-order issues, driven by his impressive form in Test cricket. However, transitioning to the shorter format required some adjustments.

Shakeel explained, “I think Test cricket is the most challenging format, you know that. So, when you perform well there, you gain a lot of confidence. 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.”

He further added, “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.”

Shakeel concluded, “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.


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