24-year-old Khyber Pakhtunkhwa player Khushdil Shah has impressed all with his aggressive batting style which saw him hit 316 runs at an average of 105.33 and a strike rate of 131.12 to be the second highest run-getter in the recently concluded Pakistan Cup.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Khushdil spoke about his disappointment at not being a part of this year's PSL, his fine performances in the Pakistan Cup, his preference for batting in the middle-order and why he feels he is now ready to represent Pakistan.
By Amir Husain (13th April, 2019)PakPassion.net: Were you disappointed at not being picked for any side in PSL 4?
Khushdil Shah: I was part of the Peshawar Zalmi squad for two seasons of the Pakistan Super League in 2017 and 2018. But unfortunately, I got to play just 3 innings in those two years which sort of tells a story in itself. I suppose it was a question of how the side was doing at that time and possibly the pressures of the PSL which probably didn’t allow them to play me more often. In addition, the position in the batting order didn’t work for me either in those two years. But my biggest disappointment was this year where I wasn’t even picked by any side. The fact that I had worked very hard to bring myself to the notice of PSL sides and was still overlooked was very disheartening. I had performed very well in domestic cricket before the drafts and also topped the charts in One-Day games but all that was to no avail. Not only that, I performed outstandingly well in the National T20 tournament as well so not being selected for PSL was a shock and even more disappointing was that no one explained to me the reason for being ignored.PakPassion.net: How do you feel about your excellent performances in the Pakistan Cup?
Khushdil Shah: I must thank the Almighty and the prayers of my family and friends for my performances in the 2019 Pakistan Cup. The truth is that I had worked very hard to get myself ready to be included in the PSL but as we know that did not happen. During that one month or so when the PSL was being played, I put my head down and worked even harder to fix any problems in my technique and weak points. During this time, I didn’t have any help from any professional coach, I just worked on my own with some players who helped me in the nets which makes me very proud of my achievements in the Pakistan Cup.PakPassion.net: What changes have you made to improve your batting recently?
Khushdil Shah: I don’t think my batting style has changed but I suppose one can say it’s about being given the opportunity to perform which is what I have had playing for FATA. To be honest if I were playing in the same number 5-6 position in the batting order for a Karachi or Lahore side, then I would probably have been in the Pakistan side by now. I suppose this is down to one’s fate, but the fact is that I am playing for FATA in domestic cricket and batting at this late a position in the batting order, and I am still averaging close to 50 with a strike rate of around 98 in List A games. I sometimes am not sure what else I can do to make it to the national side as I am doing all that is asked of me, including batting so well in One-Day games even when I come to bat a time when there aren’t that many overs left to play.
PakPassion.net: It seems that you don’t need that many overs to score big runs?
Khushdil Shah: Like any other aspiring batsman, I want to play at the highest position possible. So, my wish is to play at the number 3 or 4 position so I can score more runs and help the side even more. But that’s not happened for me yet. In the past few years, I was playing in the Pakistan Cup at the number 7-8 position usually due to the fact that the star players in the side did not know how well I could perform so they would push me to a lower order position where it wasn’t always possible to perform at my best. In the Pakistan Cup, the sides don’t get that much time to settle in as a unit before the games start, so I don’t really blame anyone for this, but I could have done better in previous editions of the Pakistan Cup whilst batting in a better position. Thankfully now after playing the Pakistan Cup a few times, the team management has started to recognise my talent and put me in the right position in the batting order. Before this, I would get to bat very late and just get a few overs to try and prove myself which was a near impossible task. So, it's good to see that my talent is being recognised and now I am getting 20-25 overs to bat and the results have been there for all to see.PakPassion.net: Given that there seems to be a lack of power-hitters and finishers in the Pakistan batting line-up, do you think you can fill that gap in the national side?
Khushdil Shah: Of course, I feel that I can perform the role of a hitter and a finisher for the Pakistan side. If you look at the first Pakistan Cup 2019 game that I played, I was able to hit 40 in 56 balls and remain not out to help my side to victory despite that fact that I was running out of partners. I was surprised by the fact that some analysts and commentators were saying that I was playing too slow and should have scored more. But what I was thinking was that if I had lost my wicket in trying to score fast, we could have easily lost the game. In the next game, I scored 154 not out in just 96 balls to take my team to another victory which shows that I am able to adjust my game as per the match situation. All I can say is that I have the ability to elevate my game based upon the situation as the idea is not to just score runs but to help the side win so I am sure I can play that role for Pakistan too.PakPassion.net: What is the secret behind your ability to hit big shots with so much ease?
Khushdil Shah: I really feel that my training and hard-work is behind my ability to hit the big shots with ease. Apart from One-Day matches, I also get to take part in Twenty20 games, so I have put in even more effort to train myself to play big run-scoring shots.PakPassion.net: Did the presence of good pitches in the Pakistan Cup aid you with your style of batting?
Khushdil Shah: I have put in a lot of effort into my batting and I feel that it doesn’t matter what sort of pitch I am playing on as I have the ability to score on all sorts of surfaces. If you look at my statistics, I have a batting average of close to 50 in 54 List A games in which I have scored 10 fifties and 8 hundreds. I am very confident that my strike rate in domestic List A is possibly the best at the moment amongst all players so really it's not just the pitches in the Pakistan Cup which are behind my success and I feel that I can succeed on all pitches and in all conditions.PakPassion.net: Would you say that your off-side game is rather weak and does need work?
Khushdil Shah: All bowlers look to bowl to the weak side of a batsman as that is the best chance of limiting run-scoring and also getting the player’s wicket. What we see in today’s game is that bowlers are hesitant to bowl too much on the off-side as it is due to fielding restrictions. So, it appears that a player like me is not scoring that much on the off-side. If you look at my batting, you will note that any balls that I got on my off-stump have been dispatched for runs and I haven’t spared any ball that deserved to be hit on the off-side. PakPassion.net: Are you more comfortable batting in the middle-order or the late-order as a finisher?
Khushdil Shah: My preference is to come into bat as a middle-order player as if I am given the chance to come at that position, I am confident that I can perform even better than what I am doing now. As I have said before, batting in the lower-order I have managed to hit 8 hundreds then its logical to think that I can do much better by playing in the middle-order too. PakPassion.net: How complimentary have the experienced players been about your batting?
Khushdil Shah: I am very lucky that I have some excellent senior colleagues in my Khyber Pakhtunkhwa side who have really appreciated my batting and also given me a lot of confidence. A few of them, like Wahab Riaz have seen me bat before and have a lot of trust in my abilities which is very satisfying to me. PakPassion.net: Are you confident that the level of your fielding and fitness is comparable to an international standard?
Khushdil Shah: These are two aspects of my cricket on which I have been working very hard upon and I am confident that I can pass the same fitness test that Mickey Arthur and his staff have set for the national team. PakPassion.net: Do you feel you are ready to make the jump from domestic to international cricket?
Khushdil Shah: From what I have seen in the past few years, players who have done well in the Pakistan Cup have easily adapted to life at the international level. Similarly, I am hopeful that with the experience of scoring two hundreds in the Pakistan Cup this year and helping my side win with those innings, I am more than ready to make the jump to international cricket if the selectors give me a chance.