Shadab Khan has taken to international cricket in style. The 18-year old legspinner’s statistics after only two matches for Pakistan read seven wickets at an average of 3, a strike-rate of 6.8 and an economy rate of 2.6. And the opposition he dismantled is not at all happy. West Indies coach Stuart Law thought his batsmen “gifted” some wickets away to Shadab and the best way to combat him was to be “more ruthless.”
“We have plans for everyone. He’s not the only one we’re talking about, we’re talking about everyone else. So we just need to come up with better execution when we’re out in the middle and that’s what it boils down to,” Law said, “He’s bowled very well, but I think we’ve gifted him a few wickets as well. I think we just need to be a little bit more ruthless against him and see what transpires after that.”
The Pakistan camp, meanwhile, is reveling in their new young talent. Shadab has played such a starring role in their victories in the Caribbean so far that on each night he was named Man of the Match.
Among his 4 for 14 on Thursday were the wickets of Marlon Samuels, who top-scored with 44, and the finisher Kieron Pollard. If removing such key batsmen wasn’t enough, Shadab got rid of them within 13 overs leaving the lower order vulnerable in a chase that should have been straightforward.
“I must appreciate and praise Shadab for the way he has been conducting himself, and taking wickets,” team-mate Shoaib Malik said. “Obviously we all know, if you’re playing against West Indies, you have to keep taking wickets. They are big guys, they hit boundaries and I think this is what we have been doing.”
As a result, West Indies are stuck with a lot of questions and no ready answers. They have gone 0-2 down in a four-match T20I series and have to win Saturday’s match to stay alive. Since they were crowned World T20 champions in March 2016 – and then beat India in a high-scoring match in Florida – the team has lost five matches in a row. All to Pakistan. Coach Law, while admitting the need to “start playing better cricket,” cautioned against taking reactionary decisions.
“It’s pretty new at this stage,” he said. “We just want to take the emotion out of it tonight. Get up with a clear head tomorrow morning and start thinking about it.
“I think we are clicking. We’re getting better. We’ve gelled really well as a team over the last couple of days. I don’t think that’s the case. I think we’ve just got to start playing better cricket. There’s glimpses of our talent, we just need to have that glimpse for a lot longer.
“Our bowling has been excellent over the last couple of games, our catching’s been outstanding, few mistakes in the ground fielding but our batting is where we need to really have a look. Apart from Marlon, no one’s really gone in and got the scores. We’ve had a couple of starts, but I just think we need someone to go on and I think it’s getting better. Fingers crossed on Saturday we turn up and play a proper game of cricket.”
Pakistan have their mind firmly on winning their second straight T20I series against West Indies. In a SWOT analysis of the team’s performance so far, Malik picked out their fielding as an improvement and their batting in the Powerplay as needing work.
“Positives, if you look at our fielding, that’s where we’ve always lacked. But the way the guys are putting in an effort here, I think that’s a great sign for Pakistan cricket. And our physical fitness. You could see even in the field, the guys roaming around, moving fast. And negatives. We really need to improve our first six overs in the batting. I think we’re going to sit and talk about it and we will come up with something.”