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Ahmad Shahzad – Down But Not Out

“If you do not know how to play spin, you can look very ordinary.”

On the first day of the first Test against New Zealand, opening batsman and relentless accumulator of runs Ahmad Shahzad looked anything but ordinary.

An unfortunate fracture of the skull has not dented his upward climb and current ICC Test player rankings position him at a career-best 39, up 18 places. Dismissed hit wicket on 176, he looked to be on the verge of reaching a double ton in only his ninth Test match.

Having become used to being in the hot spot of media queries over the past year, at press conferences he looks anything but uneasy and often throws back a beamer of his own. Perhaps aware that the press would downplay the currently superb form of the team and ask him if winning the toss was the crucial point, his answer was perfectly pitched. “Luck favours you sometimes.”

His acceptance of the Kiwis’ – in his own words – ‘disciplined bowling’ and admittance of the fact that the Pakistani openers were lucky to survive the new ball period, shows a developing cricketing maturity.

A few former players and commentators, many of whom are none-too-wise to the pressures of today’s game, have grandly announced in the not-so-distant past, that Shahzad does not have the temperament for Test cricket. However, his thoughtful batting in the 90s has left no doubt in the minds of a very loyal and rapidly increasing fan base.

Stating prudently that “Test cricket is the real test of a person,” he admitted that swapping formats is difficult, especially since competition is tough.

One of the scribes present tried to imply that a ton against New Zealand, might not be valued as much as his earlier century against the higher-ranked Australians. If he felt wrong-footed with that poor assessment of his current form, he did not show it but volleyed back with an equally adept answer. “A ton is a ton.”

Having firmly told the media that it had always been his dream to play Test cricket, one thing comes across very strongly. Unlike a lot of lost Pakistani talent over the last few decades, Ahmad Shahzad is not a ship passing in the night but is here to steady the somewhat rough waters.

As he has returned home to recuperate from his injury, it is perhaps his final words to the press that will resonate with fans. “Tomorrow is another day.”

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