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Shahzaib spoke about his disappointment at not being given further chances to represent Pakistan, his performances in the recent National Twenty20 tournament and his hopes of making a comeback in the Pakistan team in future.
 
By Amir Husain (18th September, 2016)
 
The summer of 2009 in England has a special significance for Pakistan supporters. It was at the final of the World T20 at Lord’s on the 21st of June of that year, where Younis Khan lead Pakistan to a fantastic eight wicket triumph over Sri Lanka. After the much celebrated 1992 World Cup victory, the 2009 win in the Twenty20 format was a significant moment in Pakistan’s cricket history. 

Karachi based cricketer Shahzaib Hasan played an important role in Pakistan’s chase of 139 runs to win the final but since then he has found it difficult to find a place in the Pakistan team, having played just three ODIs and ten IT20s with the last international game played against South Africa in November of 2010.

In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, twenty-six-year-old Shahzaib spoke about his memories of the 2009 World Twenty20 title victory, his disappointment at not being given further chances to represent Pakistan, his performances in the recent National Twenty20 tournament and his hopes of making a comeback in the Pakistan team in future.

Pakistan’s epic campaign to win the 2009 World Twenty20 title was a major milestone in the country’s cricket history. To be part of such a historic achievement was something that Shahzaib will cherish forever for a number of reasons as he recalled, “though distant, but undoubtedly the memories of that tournament are still very fresh in my mind. Simply to participate in a tournament of that stature was like a dream come true but then becoming part of the team that won the title was incredible to say the least. Personally speaking, that tournament took me from obscurity to fame in a matter of days and had a positive effect on my career.”

The euphoria that followed this victory seemed to suggest a new golden-age of Pakistan cricket but whilst a few cricketers such as Mohammad Amir were able to continue onwards with the Pakistan team, Shahzaib’s career trajectory did not take the expected path he would have preferred as he failed to establish a permanent place in the team.

“The success in a tournament such as the World Twenty20 was something any cricketer would have wanted to set their career on the right path and the same was true in my case. Why I did not feature again in the Pakistan team since the series against South Africa in 2010 is a mystery to me. Its puzzling since I have been making good progress in domestic cricket which happens to be one of the criteria for selection. I hold the record for the fastest hundred in just forty balls in the President’s One Day Cup (2014) and have also featured as the top scorer in the Pentangular Cup in Pakistan. However, I am not worried about the reasons for not being included in the Pakistan team and continue to focus on my domestic performances. I am hoping that if I can continue to do well in domestic cricket then I will be able to make a comeback in the national team.”

Whilst many of his contemporaries continued to forge ahead with their careers playing many games for Pakistan despite some ordinary performances, Shahzaib has had to endure the ignominy of being side-lined by the selectors for having issues with his technique. Whilst Shahzaib understands that he faces an uphill battle to convince his detractors, all he can do is to continue working hard to achieve his goals of making a comeback to the national team.

“To be honest, not being selected after playing just three ODIs does hurt. I had some reasonable scores in those games with the last match played in 2010 but was not selected again. I did not feel disheartened and continued to play domestic and also played in the first edition of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) where I did reasonably well. If it is in my fate to play for Pakistan, then it will happen. My job is to continue working hard in domestic cricket which I have been doing since the last time I played for Pakistan. Of course, it is also very disappointing that no one in the PCB, including the captain or the selectors, ever told me what I needed to improve upon specifically and why I was not being selected despite good performances. It would have been beneficial for all concerned if that had been done but it was not done. Everything said and done, there does seem to be some sort of unfairness in team selection when you are told that you are not good enough for Pakistan but the scorecards show a different story. But one cannot fight the system and must continue putting in one’s focus at the domestic level and leave the rest to the Almighty.”

The recently concluded National Twenty Cup provided another chance for Shahzaib to showcase his talent. This was a challenge that he took on with gusto whilst representing Karachi Blues where in nine matches he amassed three hundred and forty-four runs and was the third highest run-getter in the tournament.

“I did very well in the high profile National Twenty20 Cup and that really is a result of the work I have done to improve on my fitness, which incidentally is one of the basic requirements for success in international cricket nowadays. I also paid a lot of attention on improving my batting skills which was evident from my position as the third-highest run getter in the tournament. Whilst I really enjoyed playing in this tournament, my true focus was to perform well enough to find a place in the Pakistan national team.”

The reputation of a player with a cavalier attitude to his batting is one that has dogged Shahzaib since the heady days of his international debut. It is also an aspect of his cricket that has caused most damage to his chances of regaining a place in the national team and is a flaw that he has worked hard to rectify as he stated “I have had to change my approach to batting in order to fit in with the changes of modern day cricket. My shot selection as compared to earlier days of my career has become more mature, although I am still playing aggressive cricket. I am no longer trying to hit everything out of the park and am more interested in taking single and doubles to build my innings. I'm a more mature batsman these days.”

The advent of the international Twenty20 leagues have had a positive effect on the careers of many players. Apart from the exposure received as the leagues are watched by a world-wide audience, the opportunities to enhance experience is a great one for players.

“Playing league cricket around the world such as in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) has been an excellent experience. You come across players from different countries, some of whom have represented their countries at various levels. It’s a great opportunity for exposure and to learn from such players. On top of that, these tournaments get very good media coverage which is great for the players.”

Shahzaib Hasan joins a long list of players who have had promising starts to their careers but for reasons best known to selectors have failed to establish themselves further. Whilst disappointed by the progress of his international career so far, Shahzaib feels that a turnaround for his career may be at hand with the recent appointment of Inzamam-ul-Haq as the Chief Selector. 

The veteran Pakistan cricketer has won a lot of admirers for his bold selection decisions in the recent past which seems to offer immense hope for the long suffering Shahzaib Hasan as he stated “I will never give up hope of playing for Pakistan and will continue working hard to achieve that goal. It is my aim to make a comeback and I can assure the selectors that when given the chance, I will not disappoint them by my performing well for Pakistan. Inzamam-ul-Haq is a legend of Pakistan cricket and all Pakistanis have high hopes of him in his new role as Chief Selector. A player of his stature has a great eye for talent and I would like him to have a look at my performances as well. In this regards, the upcoming domestic season where I will be captaining Karachi Whites is an important one for me. There will be a lot of responsibility on me to not only showcase my skills but also to lead the team to victory. I hope and pray that the coming season will be the turning point for my career and I will be able to impress Inzamam-ul-Haq and make my way back to the national team”, he concluded.