Shaheen Shah Afridi is always on fire with speed, swing and all other skills with the ball. Lately he is surprising in batting. 22 yards burning with the bat often! This new form of his is giving birth to a lot of curiosity. When someone as devastating as Shahid Afridi is his close relative, it is inevitable to find a connection in batting development. Shaheen himself said that his batting has changed due to his father-in-law’s contact.
After the start of his career, Shaheen was completely uncoordinated with the bat for a long time. But recently he is showing another glimpse. A boundary or two or suddenly a day or two is not a good game, the impression of improvement in his batting is clear. The progress is basically understood from the last Pakistan Super League (PSL).
Even though he batted at number 10-11, he rose to number six in a team disaster and scored 52 off 36 balls in 5 sixes. His first fifty in a recognized cricket career. Never reached 30 runs in any edition before.
The PSL final proved that the batting was not a fluke. This time he played an unbeaten innings of 44 runs off 15 balls with 5 sixes. It was he who took the team to two hundred runs. He later became the Man of the Match in the team’s thrilling 1-run win with 4 wickets. His strike rate in this year’s PSL was 168.35.
He scored 23 off 7 balls in one match against New Zealand for the national team in consecutive PSL ODI series.
His devastating appearance with the bat reminds me of Shahid Afridi! Last February, Shaheen got married to the daughter of this Pakistani cricket legend. Family ties are even earlier. Shaheen told ESPNcricinfo that he is benefiting from working with his father-in-law on batting.
“Yes, working with him does have an effect. Me and Lala (Shahid Afridi) practiced shots a lot, how to play big shots in the last overs. Also worked on my bat swing a bit. No one else has that much experience in T20. It was a great experience working with him. I learned a lot.”
“The most important thing for me is still my bowling. But if the bowling is never good, I want to contribute with the bat as well. If not in batting, at least in fielding.”
Shaheen had to stay out of the field due to injury for much of last year. His game in the T20 World Cup was in doubt due to a knee ligament injury. After being out of the field for many days, he can finally play in the World Cup after rehabbing in England. However, he got injured again in the World Cup final and was sidelined for a long time.
Shaheen said that he used that time of injury to improve his batting.
“I have always loved batting, right from those under-16 cricket days. Now when I got injured, I started working on batting because I couldn’t bowl. When I came to England for the renewal, I practiced a lot with batting.”
While batting has improved, Shaheen’s bowling has been lacking in recent times. After returning from injury, he does not have the previous terrible speed! Usually bowled at around 145 kmph, he has seen his pace around 135 kmph in the PSL and series against New Zealand in recent days after returning from injury.
As the speed decreased, so did its edge. Shaheen, however, does not see anything sinister here.
“Everyone has something to say about the pace, but I feel good myself. Look, if someone bowls at 110 kmph and still takes wickets, then the feeling is good. I took the wicket. I gave 100% on the field, that’s the most important thing. Speed is not a big deal here. If the speed slows down, it will pick up again with time.”
Shaheen is getting some wickets, but certainly not in his best form. Despite taking 19 wickets in 12 matches in the PSL, he gave runs at 9.13 per over. Later in the ODI series against New Zealand he took 6 wickets in 5 matches at 8.72 runs per over. In the ODI series, however, he managed to take 8 wickets in 4 matches with 5.68 runs per over.
According to Shaheen, he is taking time to get back into the rhythm after two injuries. However, the 23-year-old left-handed pacer assured to return to his form soon.
“I was out for two months before the T20 World Cup due to injury. After the World Cup, I was out again for two or three months. It takes time to fully recover. That vitality and fitness can be regained only by playing matches.”
“I feel good since the PSL. As time went on in that tournament, I got better. Later I also returned to international cricket for Pakistan. The knee is now 100% fine. Will improve with time. The more I play, the better I get.”
Shaheen is currently in England. He will play for Nottinghamshire in T20 Blast there.