Hyderabad, October 1
Tackling a marauder like Rohit Sharma is right at the top of leg-spinner Shadab Khan’s check-list but when the Indian skipper doesn’t occupy his mind-space, the Pakistan vice-captain doesn’t shy away from expressing his love for Bollywood movies and local food.
Ajay Devgn would have little clue about how big an impression he had made on Pakistan vice-captain Shadab Khan.
Glancing at the top cop from Hyderabad police manning the media conference room, the leg-spinner couldn’t help saying: “Singham bhi aaye hain yaha pe. (I see Singham is also present here).”
The reference of super-hit Bollywood cop movie wasn’t lost on anyone as Shadab spoke with a lot of warmth about how the ‘City of Nizams’ have received their cricket team with open arms.
“The welcome was fantastic at the (Hyderabad) airport and also a lot of people have been thronging the team hotel and hospitality wise it’s been really good,” Shadab told mediapersons during the first official media conference organised by the team.
Hyderabadi food is meant to tickle everyone’s taste buds and Shadab is no different.
“The food has been really tasty and the support staff (all South Africans) are worried that we end up increasing our fat percentage (laughs). Hope, we get the same love in Ahmedabad where we play India (laughs),” said Shadab referring to his team’s much-awaited clash against the arch-rivals on October 14.
As the discussion turned towards cricket, the reverence for Rohit was there to be seen. He also picked up Kuldeep Yadav as the most dangerous Indian bowler.
“I admire Rohit Sharma a lot and among the leading batsmen in the world he is the most difficult to bowl to. Once he gets set he becomes very dangerous. Among the bowlers, since I am a leg-spinner, it will be Kuldeep Yadav given his recent form,” said Shadab.
‘We have learnt from our Asia Cup mistakes’
Pakistan failed to defend 346 against the New Zealand and have plenty to think about in the bowling department including the form of premier spinner Shadab who did not bowl in the warm-up but had a forgettable Asia Cup. The next warm-up game is against Australia on October 3.
His form is key for Pakistan in the middle-overs and the 24-year-old had no qualms in admitting that he did not have the best of times in Asia Cup where four of his six wickets came against Nepal and he ended with an average of 40.83.
“The Asia Cup didn’t go well but that’s the beauty of cricket you learn from your mistakes and there is always an opportunity to learn and play good cricket. After we lost the Asia Cup we got good rest and I believe it’s no more a skill game but a mental game and it’s the World Cup situation. You can take good decisions when you are relaxed mentally.”
Shadab is already a star but he knows the World Cup provides him with the opportunity of becoming a superstar.
“I do understand that my recent form is not good but I have the skills. Just that when you are not performing you are mentally a bit down but skill wise there is no issue.
“When you wear the green jersey there is a lot of expectation from our people and fans and especially when we play in India. The World Cup for a player is that if you perform, you will be a superstar,” he said.
Shadab is among the majority of squad members who are touring India for the first time. He doesn’t have a lot of idea about the conditions but the likened the Hyderabad pitch to the flat deck in Rawalpindi.
“Conditions will change as we will be playing in different venues and we have to adapt to conditions very quickly and also fitness-wise as it’s a long tournament and the Asia Cup saw some fast bowlers getting injured (Naseem Shah). So fitness will be a concern for all teams but hopefully not for us as we lost one of the key players already.” Shadab believes in the old cricketing saying that batters win you games and bowlers win you tournaments. He also backed under-fire opener Fakhar Zaman. “Babar, Rizwan, Iman are our consistent players and this is my feeling that the team that bowls well will win the World Cup. It will be difficult to contain the batsmen and pick wickets given the nature of flat tracks and short boundaries. We have world class bowlers and as a bowling unit if we perform well we will become champions,” he said.
Haris Rauf too quick for openers in high-intensity training
All the squad members, including the three travelling reserves turned up for Pakistan’s second training session in India.
Pakistan batters get to face the likes of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf in the nets regularly, ideal preparation for seriously quick fast bowlers in the rival teams.
Even with half a run-up, Rauf was able to trouble Fakhar and Imam Ul Haq while Babar Azam faced him with relative ease.
Team director Mickey Arthur, who joined the team on Sunday, closely watched the batters go about their business and had the biggest praise reserved for Mohammad Rizwan.
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