Pakistan’s Shadab Khan is a three-in-one cricketer.
Bilal Ahsan Dar
Pakistan lost to England in the final of the T20 World cup 2022, having qualified by the skin of their teeth and some luck after the Proteas lived up to their chokers tag as they lost to an associate side, Netherlands.
Before making it to the final of the blockbuster event, Pakistan was on the brink of exit before the knockout round. But for one team member, Shadab Khan, it was a tournament to remember as he excelled in all the departments – bowling batting and fielding.
Born on 4 October 1998, Khan is a bowling all-rounder, a right-arm legbreak bowler who is a fluent stroke player and an athletic fielder.
Graduating from club cricket to district level and then making it to Pakistan A, Shadab featured in a junior world cup in Bangladesh in 2016 and finished as the joint top wicket-taker for his team with 11 wickets. A year later, he was picked up as an emerging player in the PSL by Islamabad United. With an impressive PSL outing under his belt, he was picked by Mickey Arthur, the then Pakistan head coach, into the national side in 2017.
“When we got Shadab into the team, he was incredibly exciting as a cricketer. He was athletic and a three-in-one cricketer,” said Arthur in a recent interview with AFP. “He is a match winner for Pakistan. The difference I have seen is that he has come from a boy to a man,” Arthur added alluding to Shadab’s recent success.
Khan made his One Day International (ODI) debut for Pakistan against the West Indies on 7 April 2017. He made his Test debut for Pakistan, also against the West Indies, on 30 April 2017. He was a part of Pakistan’s 2017 Champions Trophy winning squad. In September 2017, he was named as PCB’s Emerging Player of the Year. He made his Twenty20 International (T20I) debut for Pakistan against the West Indies on 26 March 2017, recording the most economical figures for a bowler completing their four overs on debut.
It took Khan just eight deliveries to make a mark and set the stage on fire in his very first appearance at the highest level. He returned with figures of 3-7 against the West Indies on his T20I debut. What stood out was his additional bonus of being a livewire on field and, yes, he could bat as well.
Khan’s finest moment in his emergence was at the Champions Trophy in 2017. In the final match of the tournament he trapped the dangerous Yuvraj Singh LBW. English umpire Richard Kettleborugh wasn’t impressed but the youngster displayed immense confidence and convinced his skipper to take a review and the umpire had to reverse his decision.
In the T20 World Cup 2022, after the last-ball defeats against India and Zimbabwe, Khan pulled his team back from the brink of exit with three wickets against the Netherlands for their first win.
He then turned up with a fiery 22-ball 52 and bowling figures of 2-16 during his man-of-the-match performance against South Africa.
“He brings invaluable energy to the team,” captain Babar Azam said after Khan produced an exceptional piece of fielding to run out opener Devon Conway in the semifinal against the Black Caps.
Since 2020, he’s one of the three players in all T20’s to have scored over 1000 runs and taken 100 wickets. Samit Patel and Jason Holder are the other two. He’s the only player alongside Mohammad Nabi to have at least 10 scores of 30+ at a strike rate above 150 as well as at least 10 innings where he has bowled his full quota of four overs and conceded less than six runs per over.
Scalping the wicket of Harry Brook in the final against England, Shadab Khan moved past Shahid Afridi as the leading wicket taker for Pakistan in the T20Is with a tally of 98 wickets. Earlier this year in February, Khan became the leading wicket taking spinner in the history of PSL .
After a steep initial rise, Khan had a bad patch in his career from 2019 to 2021. His bowling form deteriorated as he focused more on his batting. He expressed his desire to bat higher up the order and had some useful performances with the bat in PSL, but his economy rate with the ball in his hand hovered around a very expensive 8.7 rpo and an average of around 36, which was more than double of his average in 2017 and 2018. Also, his name became synonymous with injuries and he missed quite a few important tours of his national team. But he made a strong comeback to become an indispensable part of his side and reclaim the vice-captaincy.
He was the standout bowler for Pakistan in the T20 World Cup 2022. In five matches, the leggie picked up 10 wickets at an economy rate of 6.22. His best figures 3/22 came against the Netherlands at Perth. With a 20-ball half century, he racked up the second fastest fifty by a Pakistani batter in the history of T20 world cups. He was nominated for player of the tournament as well.
At 24, Khan is already the team’s vice-captain, apart from captaining sides in the Pakistan Super League and Caribbean Premier League.
With Babar Azam’s captaincy tactics coming under heavy criticism, many believe Khan could be a candidate to take over, at least in the T20 format. Shadab’s tactical flexibility and game awareness as captain was appreciated by many when he captained Islamabad United in the PSL. Shadab is also being credited with giving useful suggestions to his captain.
Bilal Ahsan Dar is a blogger and cricket buff.