Few players are lucky enough to represent their country at an early age and focusing on Pakistan cricket such players are believed to be the teenage prodigy who will go on and serve the game in the years to come. Ahmed Shehzad is one such player who got the opportunity to play for Pakistan when he debuted in 2009 against Australia. Known to be a sweet timer of the ball from his under-19 days, many saw him to be the answer to the long-standing opening problem in ODIs for Pakistan. However, the answer has once again been incorrect.
Ahmed’s start in ODIs was not a great one. He played 4 games and scored a total of 106 runs with a strike rate of 52.73 and a high score of 43. He was dropped from the squad and wasn’t to play until 2011. After a string of good performances at the domestic level Ahmed made his comeback in 2011 and scored his maiden 100 against New Zealand; a brilliant 115 at a SR of 105. But this 100 was followed by a string of low scores and in the next 7 innings to follow his highest score was 22. He was also part of the ICC World cup 2011 and failed to perform there. However, he scored his next ton in West Indies, scoring 102 but at a SR of 68.9. It was a slow innings but considering the small target and the slow wicket, it was a relatively good innings. However, Ahmed once again failed in the next three innings, failing to even get past 10. This also meant that he faced the second axe of his career as he was dropped from the team after the West Indies tour citing ‘’disciplinary issues’’. In his second run with the national team in 2011, Ahmed played 15 matches scoring 371 at a SR of 73.46, getting 2 tons. If the two tons are removed from his total, his run can be considered a failure in the remaining 13 matches which he played.
Ahmed’s third run with the national team came in 2013 after performing well at the domestic circuit which he has always done. He started to perform consistently and notched up 5 50s and 2 tons. His most notable performance that year was his 102 against South Africa at a SR of 91 which helped Pakistan beat South Africa and win the series. In all he played 21 matches and scored 809 runs at a SR of 71. The next year was also very good for Ahmed as he once again scored 629 runs at an average of 39 and SR of 75 along 2 100s and 4 50s. This was the first time Ahmed crossed a career SR of 75 in a year. Ahmed’s consistency was rewarded with a test call up and he made his test debut in the same year, scoring 3 100s. However, he was hit on the head by a ball form Corey Anderson and that, many people think, has contributed to Ahmed’s poor run in the international circuit.
However, the numbers do not back this claim. Ahmed was playing well at 176* when the bouncer hit his head and he apparently fractured his skull but that happened on November 10th, 2014. Even after getting hit on the head, Ahmed came back to the team and scored a ton against the same opposition in the ODI match on 14 December. Interestingly, he scored 113 at a SR of 94 and his 12 fours and 2 sixes.
Now that is not a performance by a person scared of the ball. He scored two more 50s against the same opposition one home and one away before the World cup 2015 started. He was part of the squad for the ICC Cricket world cup 2015 but and scored 2 50s but against weaker opposition; Ireland and UAE. He then faced the 3rd ace of his career after a disastrous World cup campaign of Pakistan and the subsequent leaking of coach waqar’s report. He was once again dropped citing ‘’disciplinary issues’’. He missed the forgettable tour of Bangladesh and then the decision to take him back was taken considering Pakistan’s horrible 8th position in the ICC ranking and the pressure to qualify for the champions trophy. He made a 4th comeback of his career against Sri Lanka in a must win series and scored a match winning 95 in the 4th ODI. This innings was scored at a SR of 105 and included 12 fours and 1 six. However, that was Ahmed’s last notable innings of his career and since then he has slumped as an ODI player. Even though he scored 520 runs in 2015 at a SR of 75 most his innings were too slow as compared to the modern standards. He played 2 games in 2016 and was dropped from the team for the rest of the year. However, he still performed exceptionally well in the first edition of the PSL and his team Quetta Gladiators reached the finals. This earned Ahmed a call up to wt20 2016 squad and another disastrous WC campaign saw the fall of Waqar and Ahmed did not make up the ODI squad after Mickey Arthur took charge and the pair of Sharjeel khan and Azhar ali was preferred. Ahmed was once again instrumental in Quetta’s run to the final in second PSL and this coupled with Sharjeel and Khalid’s suspension due to spot fixing became the reason for Ahmed’s 5thcomeback to the national side. But once again he struggled in WI, failed in the only match he played in the CT 2017 and was out of sorts in the 2 matches he played against SL.
To understand how good/bad Ahmed is statistically I decided to study more about his scores and his strike rate. Ahmed Shehzad has till now played 81 innings in ODIs. In that he has scored less than 30 runs in 48 innings and less than 20 runs in 41 innings which makes 50.62% of his innings resulting in scores of less than 20. He has played 62 innings in which his SR is below 80 which amounts to 78% of his total innings. This percentage is staggering because this problem has been plagued with Pakistan for quite some time and his SR seems to be a big factor in it. He has till now scored over 30 runs in 33 innings and in those 33 innings he has achieved a SR of more than 80 only 16 times. He has scored 50+ runs 20 times and in those 20 innings he has attained a SR of more than 80 11 times. His career SR is 72 which the worst among all recognized batters in the Pakistan ODI squad vs Sri Lanka. In fact, he has never ever achieved a cumulative SR of more than 73 in his entire career. He has a career dot ball % of 62 which means that for every 100 balls he plays he scores nothing on 62 deliveries. Moreover, he takes 12.59 deliveries or approximately 13 delivers to hit one boundary.
Now the question which poses in front of us is that Is Ahmed a good one day player especially after hearing experts from all TV channels discussing how good of a stoke maker he is or how talented he is. The constructive breakdown of Ahmed Shehzad tells a different story altogether. Ahmed may be talented, he may be working hard than most of the players but somehow, he is not getting the desired results. He has been part of the problem Pakistan cricket has had with the failure to embrace the modern style of playing one day cricket. His high dot ball percentage, failure to hit boundaries on regular basis and lack of awareness to rotate the strike all point out that statistically Ahmed is mediocre and no different to the past openers that Pakistan has had in the 21th century. Ahmed is indeed a gifted player with text book shots but all he needs is a heart and the bravery to score freely. He is lucky to get an extended run by Inzimam-ul-Haq and if he fails to change himself his career as Pakistan ODI player may be over soon.
Written By Mohammed Kaab Baig.