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Shadab Khan, not just domestic material

Shadab Khan had an encounter with his idol Steven Smith in the lift of a five star hotel in Dubai during the Pakistan Super League. There was no talk, no request for a selfie, no autograph, nothing. Shadab was too shy to even look at Smith directly.

"I didn't know what to talk to him as I was lost in his coolness," Shadab told ESPNcricinfo. "By the time I could realise, the lift ride was over and he walked away, and that's it. But I want him to recognise me one day."

Shadab, an 18-year-old allrounder, is already a celebrated cricketer among Pakistani fans in the UAE thanks to the PSL. With only four first-class games behind him, he has already become a highly-rated player in domestic cricket. He was born in Mianwali but grew up in Rawalpindi playing for Sadiq Akbar Cricket Club and rose through the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh last year, being Pakistan's joint highest wicket-taker with a tally of 11 at an average of 19. He had made it to the World Cup squad after taking four five-fors to become the best bowler of the inter-regional Under-19 one-day tournament with 34 wickets at an astonishing average of 7.38. He has an unorthodox legspin bowling action and possesses a deceptive googly. His action may look somewhat like an offspinner's but his control and the coordination between the wrist and fingers makes him an impressive legspinner.

Sometimes it takes just one impactful performance to stamp your utility. His match-winning and unbeaten 33 off 29 balls and a wicket, on List A debut, for Islamabad against Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the Pakistan Cup last year brought him in the limelight. After they were 153 for 6 while chasing 201 in 43 overs, his 25-run stand with Misbah-ul-Haq won him some praise from his captain. His all-round value was bolstered by his outstanding fielding abilities as he collected seven run-outs in the tournament.

"I think that was the turning point for me when Misbah bhai recognised my talent and then I didn't stop," Shadab said. "After my World Cup campaign, I was selected for Pakistan's A tours of England and Zimbabwe, and I did enough to make a mark. My career was actually nurtured in the shadow of Sabhi Azhar (Rawalpindi regional head coach) who actually taught me how to bowl otherwise I was more tempted towards batting.

"I actually started as a bowler but I didn't have enough confidence initially because at club level when you get punished you don't get much bowling. So I got disheartened and chose batting for some time until I was scolded by Sabhi Azhar to pick up the ball again. He probably had a belief in me that I could do something and it helped me a lot. Later I went to NCA where Mushtaq Ahmed noticed me and then I had all the relevant eyes on me. As a cricketer you need support and all of them were gracious enough to stand behind me. They trusted me and I am trying hard to never let them down."

Shadab grew up watching Shane Warne as an inspiring figure and followed the progress of Smith later on. He then shared dressing rooms with other Australians - Brad Haddin and Shane Watson - enhancing the confidence level within him. He believed that the presence of Wasim Akram, Dean Jones and the backing of Misbah, pushed his career. "I had never thought of sharing the dressing room with big players like them and it makes me really nervous sometimes. But each one of them encourages me. I don't talk much with them but I observe their work ethics and what they do in their routines to become great.

"When i played my first match, Wasim bhai told me to relax. He knew that I might, at some stage, would be tested under pressure but he told me to breath easy and to keep calm. Whatever I have earned so far is because I worked very hard for it and it's paying me back. I have 80% control on my bowling and I know I have a lot to learn and have to work very hard. My googly is natural and I don't want to change that, I am working hard on my flipper as legspin bowling is a difficult art in cricket and I need to work hard to stay relevant."


Azhar, his mentor from the grassroots level, recalled Shadab's upbringing by saying the allrounder could be a "complete package" to become the next big thing in Pakistan. "I have coached many players and I can tell you that he is not domestic material but an international material," Azhar said. "He is the kind of bowler who can spin the ball sharply and that is rare if you compare the top legspinners in our circuit. He is a complete package with bowling, batting and fielding. I have overseen his career and planned it from Under-16 level onwards. For sometime he tried to turn into a batsman but I convinced him to pick up his legspin. There is huge competition in batting while among legspinners there are few contenders to compete with so he got my proposition and he started focusing on his bowling again."

Source: Espncricinfo

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