Regarded as one of the most promising all-rounders in the world, 18-year-old Shadab Khan has already represented Pakistan in 12 games and picked up 20 wickets. Apart from being part of the 2017 Champions Trophy winning squad, he has also just finished a stint with Caribbean Premier League 2017 finalists Trinbago Knight Riders where he took 12 wickets in just 8 games. He has recently been signed up by Brisbane Heat to represent them in the next edition of the Big Bash League in Australia.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Shadab Khan spoke about his experience at the Champions Trophy in England, the planning behind taking Yuvraj Singh's wicket in the final of the tournament, his desire to play four-day games to establish himself in the Pakistan Test side, his stint with Brisbane Heat and looked forward to playing against the World XI in the Independence Cup.
By Amir Husain (9th September, 2017)
PakPassion.net: The Champions Trophy semi-final against England was the first major tournament game of your career. How were the nerves on that day?
Shadab Khan: There were absolutely no nerves from my end on that day. I'm not really the nervous type. This was down to the way our team was united in its ambitions and really there was no concept of who was a senior or junior. We were all ready to win for Pakistan and that enthusiasm was in every players’ mind and body language. I was no different and what also helped was the amount of encouragement that I was getting from the team management and the captain. This was not just only in that game but throughout the tournament. Thankfully that confidence I had built up helped me in this game as well.
PakPassion.net: Was there extra pressure as you were playing against the hosts and tournament favourites in such an important match?
Shadab Khan: This was a do-or-die game for us but I wasn’t too concerned about what the opposition was thinking about me or whether they were saying anything to me. My focus, as always, was to deliver my best performance and bowl as well as I could. This is what I did that day and whilst I took just one wicket, I was glad that we beat the hosts by 8 wickets to advance to the final.
PakPassion.net: Did you feel that as a young player in such a big tournament, you had a point to prove to people?
Shadab Khan: You cannot hide from pressure as it will always be there whether you are young or old. I know that I have to perform well regardless of whatever level of cricket I am playing. This is something I have to deal with but then this is part and parcel of any cricketer’s life and I am no different. The Champions Trophy was a great learning experience for me as it also helped to me to learn to cope with big match situations. So, I didn’t have to prove myself to anyone but that did not stop me from putting in my best performances to help Pakistan in winning games. My wish is to always give my 100 percent in every game I play, the rest I leave to the Almighty.
PakPassion.net: How much of a role did the guidance from your seniors in the team play during the Champions Trophy?
Shadab Khan: The guidance I got from the team management and seniors was crucial in the way I played throughout the tournament. There was the obvious advice to help me cope with big game pressure but the bigger help was in the sharing of experience regarding pitches and areas to bowl in on different grounds that we were playing in. I had a lot of sessions with the Head Coach Mickey Arthur and other coaches on my bowling. I also used to ask for advice from Mushtaq Ahmed before every game as he has great knowledge of local conditions since he has played a lot of cricket in England.PakPassion.net: The final against India was a special occasion. Tell us about that game.
Shadab Khan: Whilst this was the final game, I did not really feel too much pressure. It may seem odd but the only time I felt under pressure was in the first game against India which we unfortunately lost. That match was my first experience of a high-tension game against our traditional rivals and whilst we did not win that game, it did help me in getting over this mental hurdle. So, whilst the Champions Trophy final was probably the biggest game of my career, I was better prepared for it mentally and did not feel nervous. In fact, I have to say that apart from that tournament opener against India, I never felt nervous in any of the games in the Champions Trophy. It was not me, but the whole team felt very relaxed in the final of the tournament because by that time we were performing really well and had beaten some top teams as well. There was belief in the team that we would win the match even before the first ball was bowled and that feeling stayed with us all the way as we lifted the trophy.PakPassion.net: How well planned was the Yuvraj Singh dismissal in the Champions Trophy final?
Shadab Khan: I believe it all started with the first India-Pakistan game in the tournament in which I could see that he was unable to pick my wrong'un and then he was also dropped off my bowling. So, in the back of mind, I knew that he had a weakness which I could use to our advantage. What I figured was that Yuvraj would be looking for the wrong'un every ball I was bowling and he would be playing each ball that way. The best way to trouble him then was to bowl a regular leg-spin delivery which I did and hit him on the pad. This wicket was perfect planning and a moment I will never forget for the rest of my life. PakPassion.net: Planning against Yuvraj Singh was one thing, but actually taking his wicket was something special, wasn’t it?
Shadab Khan: When the ball hit his pad, I knew he was out. If there was any doubt, it was about whether the ball had hit his bat as well. Sometimes in life we take decisions in a matter of seconds which can change everything and this dismissal was one of them. We knew this was a huge wicket and in a big game like this one with thousands in the crowd shouting and putting pressure on us, we took a decision to review within seconds and got the result we wanted. I was so convinced that Yuvraj Singh was out that I was repeating on and on to our captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, that it was pad first and that Yuvraj was out. He asked me again if the ball hit the pad first and I said yes it did and we took the review. I knew that the captain and team management had huge faith in me and they showed that by listening to my call for reviewing the decision. I was of course overjoyed when the review was taken and the decision was given in our favour. PakPassion.net: The last few months after the Champions Trophy victory must feel like a dream?
Shadab Khan: Absolutely so. No one predicted that we would win the Champions Trophy yet we did it. And then when we came back to Pakistan, we were treated like heroes and given so much love and affection which was incredible. Even today, wherever anyone from that wining squad goes in Pakistan, people praise us for our achievement and that is sometimes hard to believe.PakPassion.net: What has it been like to play alongside the likes of Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Bravo at the CPL?
Shadab Khan: If you will recall, I had my international debut whilst on the tour of the West Indies so I have great memories of this part of the world. I had a great time playing for Trinbago Knight Riders at the CPL where I got to play alongside and learn from the likes of Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Bravo as well as Sunil Narine. I can tell you that each day was a great learning experience and apart from that, I was also able to put in some excellent performances where I ended up with 12 wickets for my team. A part of me is sad that I had to leave TKR before the end of the tournament but I am also very happy about the World XI’s visit to Pakistan and hope I can play a big role in winning games in the Independence Cup.PakPassion.net: Was it easy to adjust to conditions and life away from home at the CPL?
Shadab Khan: The TKR team and its management have been wonderful with me and provided all the support I needed. They have really made me feel at home and the team has a great family spirit about it which made the whole experience very enjoyable for me. It’s great to know that they have reached the final of the CPL and I do wish them the best of luck and hope they win the tournament.PakPassion.net: Are all formalities for your stint with the Brisbane Heat now complete?
Shadab Khan: Firstly, I would like to say that I am really looking forward to playing in Australia with Brisbane Heat. The contract has been signed and the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from PCB is what is pending but hopefully this will not be a problem. PakPassion.net: You must be looking forward to playing in Australia in front of packed houses?
Shadab Khan: To be honest, I haven’t given much thought to that as at the moment, my thoughts and energies are just focused on the upcoming World XI games in Pakistan. I do know that there is tremendous interest in the BBL and I am really looking forward to playing in front of so many excited fans. I was always interested in playing in the BBL and even Mushtaq Ahmed who is my adviser recommended this Twenty20 League for me. Also, I understand that Brendon McCullum sent some good reviews of my performances to Brisbane Heat’s coach Daniel Vettori which helped me in getting this assignment. The BBL has its own charm and is a very popular tournament not just in Australia but around the world and I hope that I am able to put in good performances when I play for Brisbane Heat.PakPassion.net: Many new players have risen to fame quickly in Pakistan but then lost all due to some controversies. Many are worried that you will go the same way.
Shadab Khan: I always strive to please my Creator. I keep that in my mind and also the fact that at the end of it all, I have to answer to the Almighty. I know that if I become a successful cricketer, there will always be a lot of attractions and opportunities around me which could lead to controversies but I have to make sure that I keep my feet on the ground at all times. My goal is to go about my business and play for Pakistan without any arrogance and false pride. Some have let them down but I can assure Pakistan cricket fans I won't let them down and break their hearts.PakPassion.net: Have you given any thought to playing county cricket in future?
Shadab Khan: Playing in county cricket is something which I have had in mind for a while. Even Mushtaq Ahmed has also advised me to try and get some four-day game experience in county cricket as that can be an important part of a cricketer’s development. What I plan to do is to take part in the World XI games and then the first-class games in Pakistan and past that, try and find a place in county cricket as well. It has always been my desire to play in all formats of the game and I feel that the four-day format is one that I now need to pay special attention to, to make myself a complete cricketer.PakPassion.net: You seem to be a decent batsman so are you looking to develop yourself into a genuine all-rounder as well?
Shadab Khan: Every player has some areas of his game that he would like to improve and batting is one aspect that I am working on whenever I get a chance. I always discuss my batting with Pakistan batting coach Grant Flower and work with him to improve myself. He is of the opinion that my batting is continuing to improve a lot and I am sure, with time, I can become a genuine all-rounder for Pakistan.PakPassion.net: What do you feel you need to do to become a regular member of the Pakistan Test side?
Shadab Khan: I really enjoyed my debut in the Test match against the West Indies and I really do want to play more Tests for Pakistan. I know that the only way I can do that is by playing as many four-day games as possible. I have a lot of Twenty20 and One-Day experience but that is of limited use in the longer format of the game so I need to work hard to try and build my skills in the four-day game. Playing in that format will also help me develop the physical strength and mental aspects which are needed if you want to be a top Test bowler. For the moment, I am really looking forward to my debut first-class season where I intend to play for SNGPL. Hopefully I can play as many four-day games as possible in this season and do well in them for my team.PakPassion.net: What are your thoughts on the upcoming visit to Pakistan by the World XI side?
Shadab Khan: I am really excited that I will get a chance to play against some top quality players from the World XI in front of our home crowds. I can't wait to play against the World XI in front of my countryfolk. My aim is to perform as well as I can and provide joy to our home fans. I feel privileged that I am getting a chance to play international cricket in Pakistan, as many other players have had to wait for a long time. As a Pakistan player, I can tell you that I am overjoyed at the thought of seeing world-class players from other nations playing on our grounds. Since the time I started to watch cricket, I have never seen an international team play on our soil except for Zimbabwe so you can understand how happy I am feeling about the Independence Cup as that could result in the full restoration of international cricket in Pakistan. On a personal level, it will be a matter of great pride for me to be performing in front of my fans and family who are also excited about the upcoming games. I hope they will all be present at the Gaddafi Stadium to watch Pakistan and myself perform on our own grounds after a long time.