Pakistan’s first T20I centurion credits Shoaib Malik for helping him along during his unbeaten 111 against Bangladesh
Until Sunday (March 30), only six batsmen had made a hundred in each of the three formats in international cricket. Ahmed Shehzad became the seventh batsman to achieve the treble of a Test hundred, an One-Day International century and a Twenty20 International ton when he made an unbeaten 111 in the ICC World Twenty20 2014 Super 10 Group 2 match against Bangladesh.
Shehzad, still only 22 and playing his 25th T20I, gatecrashed a club that previously only included Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardena, Martin Guptill and Suresh Raina, while also becoming the first Pakistani batsman to reach three figures in international T20 cricket.
The right-hand opening batsman had also held the previous highest score by a Pakistani, 98 not out against Zimbabwe in Harare last August after which, in nine innings, he had topped 10 only thrice. “I feel very proud because before coming here, that was my aim – that in the pool games itself, I need to make a century. To become the first Pakistani player to have a century in all three formats makes me very proud,” said Shehzad.
“I liked the Harare innings because at that time, I hadn’t secured my ODI position. I was on a comeback. To pull off an innings like that at that time, that gave me a lot of happiness. Yes, I did miss a 100 but I felt that I have got this close, I can achieve more than that as well. Today, when I was 70-odd, Shoaib Malik was batting with me, and he said ‘you can comfortably make a hundred’.
“The plan was for me to bat through 20 overs, the captain’s message came that ‘you play 20 overs and let the rest bat around you’. What happens in T20 is that one or two individuals perform. Whoever is set, it is important to anchor the innings and take the rest with him. This is what I tried today, which fortunately materialised. It is something that doesn’t happen every day. We must all understand that T20 is the kind of format where the margin of error for the bowlers is very less but the batsman must also try a lot of different things because of which he can be out as well. It is important for everyone to understand that you should not judge a player on the basis of one or two innings. The team is selected on an individual’s abilities and his past performances.”
Taking a dig at critics, imaginary and real, Shehzad said, “I dedicate this effort to all those who criticise me and also to those who love me. It is for all those people who have said anything about me – good, bad, whoever it is. It is my gift to them, it is my gift to the entire Pakistan, for people outside as well. To be very honest, I have been listening to so many things after the last two games (when he made 22 and 5 against India and West Indies respectively). This is what happens in cricket. When you don’t play well in a couple of games, there is pressure on you. But this is when you have to show your character. I backed myself and the coaches and the captain backed me too. I would like to thank whoever supported me. I was backing myself and sticking to my game plan. I wasn’t trying to do anything extra but my aim was to pick the bowlers first and make sure I go after them.”
Shehzad put on 83 for the fourth wicket with Malik after Pakistan had slipped to 71 for 3. Crediting the former captain for his role in the partnership and for his hand in his own ton, Shehzad said, “In Bangladesh, the ball does spin and grip. The idea was to score as much as possible against the fast bowlers so that we don’t have to try anything extra against the spinners, take as little risk as possible against them. It was expected that in a 3.30pm start, the ball will grip for the spinners.
“Unfortunately, we lost three early wickets but when Shoaib bhai came in, we had a very good partnership. He had a big role to play in my hundred because he ran brilliantly between the wickets. When you run well, then you don’t have to take many risks. He also gets a lot of credit for my hundred, he batted very well.”
Shehzad played largely conventional strokes, though he did try a couple of paddles, walking across his stumps, off the faster bowlers without any success. Explaining the rationale behind that stroke, he remarked, “The plan was to disturb the bowler, you can’t be predictable in this format because the bowlers have become very sharp, they work hard and come up with plans. The paddle – I didn’t connect but after I tried that stroke, fine-leg went out and cover came in to the circle. So I hit two fours over cover. That is the thing – to manoeuvre the field, get into the minds of the captain and the bowlers. This is what T20 cricket is all about.”