LONDON: Wasim Akram and Dean Jones referred to him as “pure gold” when they first saw teenage leg-spinner Shadab Khan bowl. Now the 18-year-old Pakistani tweaker is beginning to make his mark globally, baffling batsmen with his guile and spin. Khan made his international debut in last week’s T20 series against the West Indies, capturing 10 wickets against the world champions before being named player of the series. His main attacking weapon is the googly – a delivery that spins from the off side towards leg – baffling batsmen expecting the ball to turn the other way. “I know my googlies are getting famous, but that’s not the only one,” Shadab told Associated Press from Guyana on Monday. “I really work hard on leg-spin and flippers too and will try to be the best in all three varieties.” Shadab caught the eye of the senior national selectors when he played in the Pakistan Super League for defending champions Islamabad United, led by Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq. He took nine wickets in eight matches and was rewarded for his efforts by being fast-tracked into the Pakistan limited-overs squad for the series against the West Indies.
Pakistan’s limited-overs captain Sarfraz Ahmed expects Shadab to play Test cricket in the near future if he continues his rapid progression. “I believe that if I put in more hard work, I will definitely get more rewards in international cricket,” Shadab said. A reluctant spinner, Shadab comes from Mianwali which is also the home town of Misbah and Pakistan’s World Cup-winning skipper Imran Khan. In 2010, he shifted to Rawalpindi, the hometown of another Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar, and like millions of Pakistani youngsters his first love was pace bowling. It was only when he was at the Siddique Akbar Club in Rawalpindi that he was spotted by the club’s president Sajjad Ahmed, who encouraged him to try wrist spin. “When I started playing club cricket I used to be a fast bowler,” Shadab said. “But then our president of the club told me to start bowling leg-spin and I started working hard on this art.” Ahmed said he immediately knew Shadab had the talent to play at the highest level. “He worked hard and I knew that he would get his chance at international level,” Sarfraz Ahmed told. It wasn’t long before others began to think the same. In 2015, Shadab was part of the Pakistan Under-17 team which played against England in the United Arab Emirates. He took 10 wickets in four one-day games.
Last year, he was the joint leading wicket-taker with 11 wickets at the Under-19 World Cup. He was promoted to the Pakistan A team and made his first class debut against Sri Lanka, scoring 48 runs and taking five wickets. Then he followed that by taking 14 wickets and hitting 132 runs in the series against Zimbabwe A. Shadab has been fine-tuning his skills under the guidance of United’s coaches Jones and Akram and also with Mushtaq Ahmed at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore. “I used to bowl wide of the crease and later I was taught by Dean Jones which has benefited me a lot,” he said. Former Australia batsman Jones said he could not be more impressed by Shadab’s attributes. “The very first time Akram and I saw Shadab in the nets, we looked at each other and said, ‘this boy is pure gold’,” Jones told PakPassion. “He is an interesting player to coach and I have said this before as well, that for an 18-year-old-kid he has the head of a 30-year-old on him. “He has pretty much hit the ground running and yes, he will get whacked a few times in his career but Pakistan have something special there.”