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In his latest exclusive blog for Pakpassion, Mohammad Zahid discusses the difficulties of dealing with injuries for Pakistani cricketers, his thoughts on Bilawal Bhatti and Ahmed Shehzad, as well as the importance of winning the mental battle when playing international cricket.

by Mohammad Zahid (22nd December 2013)

 

Hailing from Gaggu Mandi in Punjab, Mohammad Zahid became the first Pakistani to take ten wickets on Test debut when his pace and accuracy proved too much for a hapless New Zealand in 1996. He finished with figures of 11-130 including seven wickets in the second innings as the Kiwis were thrashed by an innings and 13 runs. Zahid's ability to bowl at a ferocious pace was recognised at an early age and after bowling to Brian Lara, Zahid was described by the legendary left-hander as the fastest bowler in the world.

Sadly Mohammad Zahid's cricket career was cut short after he suffered a severe back injury on a tour to Sri Lanka and had to undergo surgery. He never recovered and played his last in 2003, yet to this day Pakistan fans continue to wonder 'what could have been'. 

In his latest exclusive blog for Pakpassion, Mohammad Zahid discusses the difficulties of dealing with injuries for Pakistani cricketers, his thoughts on Bilawal Bhatti and Ahmed Shehzad, as well as the importance of winning the mental battle when playing international cricket.



One of the recent additions to the Pakistan squad is Bilawal Bhatti who I have been very impressed with. The biggest positive about him is that he has pace. When a player bowls quickly, often the other aspects of his game can fall into place at a later stage. At the moment, he still has to work on improving his bowling with both the new and old ball but given some time, he will learn. Perhaps nowadays with there being two new balls from each end in ODIs, there is less opportunity to bowl with an older ball but if he is selected for Test cricket then he will need to demonstrate he can bowl with the old ball. Even in the shorter forms of the game where the ball doesn’t get that old, there is still a requirement to be able to bowl yorkers in the death overs so this is something which Bilawal will need to practice. 

Another advantage Bhatti has over other pacers coming through is that he has some batting ability which he showed in his first two ODIs against South Africa. On his debut he scored a crucial 39 off 25 balls which helped push Pakistan to a defendable total, and he followed it up in the next game by hitting 21 off 14 balls which also proved vital as Pakistan ended up winning by just 1 run. To me he looks like a complete athlete and an excellent bowler, so I think he can go far. 

Moving on to Mohammad Irfan’s injury, there were some reports that Irfan was not fit before the last T20 match against South Africa and that doctors had advised the management not to include him in the game. The management however went ahead and played Irfan in place of an injured Junaid Khan. Irfan then aggravated an injury which ruled him out of the ongoing Sri Lanka series. The PCB have since released a statement stating Irfan was fully fit before the game and that the injury was suffered before that particular match. Regardless of when the injury occurred and I say this as someone who has had first hand of experience of being asked to play while injured – it should not happen as this is really not acceptable. The management often don’t understand and sometimes make unreasonable demands of players. They look for their selfish benefit by getting you to play even when a player is clearly unfit. Whilst the management can be blamed for this, Irfan himself should have refused to play if he was injured – he himself has a responsibility to look after his own interests. The management may have the final final say but he should have made it clear to the team management that he was unfit. 

It happened twice with me with two separate injuries. Both times I was asked to play but all that does is further aggravate the injury and the chances of it becoming serious increase. The management do their best to motivate you to play and in my case the player feels that he has no choice but to play. They tell you that these things happen, injuries occur all the time and that you have to put up with it and be mentally tough with it. They don’t leave you with much choice! In Pakistan it’s probably more difficult, other teams generally understand injuries better.

I have some sympathy for Irfan because from a player’s point of view, it’s very difficult to tell the management about an injury – it’s almost impossible. The worry is that someone else takes your place and performs and you may not get a chance to return to the playing eleven. 

Coming on to Pakistan’s twin series against South Africa, they were soundly defeated in the ODI series in the UAE yet just a week or so later, they went to South Africa and won there. This surprised many, especially given the change in conditions between the two countries. Our batsmen have historically struggled in South Africa and it’s certainly very difficult for batsmen to suddenly go from playing in the UAE to South Africa! However the batsmen did well to put enough runs on the board to give the bowlers something to defend and Pakistan were able to win the series.

On the subject of Ahmed Shehzad, after being given a number of opportunities, his batting has finally started to click. He scored a century in South Africa and has followed it up with another one in the recent ODI against Sri Lanka. It’s good for the Pakistan team to have some runs from an opener. I have to admit that I did feel that he hadn’t done enough with the opportunities he was given but I suppose, there weren’t that many backups coming through from domestic cricket either. However, he has started to deliver now which is a good sign. Aggression is his game and I feel he should play aggressively at the top of the order. I feel that aggression is very important, be it when you are batting or bowling. Nasir Jamshed is an example of a player who lost some of his aggression, although that may have been partly due to a lack of form. 

At the end of the day, it’s a game of nerves when you are playing cricket at the International level. Just look at Mohammad Hafeez and his battle with Dale Steyn, it became more psychological than anything else. When someone loses the mental battle it has an adverse effect on their performance although his recent form in the series against Sri Lanka is very heartening.

Discuss!