England’s Ajmal Shahzad: My debt to
Pakistan legends Waqar Younis and Wasim
England’s new seam-bowling livewire Ajmal Shahzad has revealed his debt to Pakistan greats Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram as he sets his sights on a one-day international debut against Bangladesh on Sunday.
The Yorkshire quick believes his best chance of a long-term international career will be to master reverse-swing – a skill perfected by the Pakistani duo when they blew England away in 1992.
Shahzad has impressed during his brief involvement with the senior squad, taking two wickets in a feisty first over in international cricket during last week’s second Twenty20 against Pakistanin Dubai, then bowling Bangladesh Test batsman Shahriar Nafees for only 12 during Tuesday’s tour opener in Fatullah. His short but extremely important role in last England Vs India match was vital for his team as he managed to take England out of trouble and they tied the match which was due to win by Indians.
And his admission that he asked Waqar for reverse-swing tips while in the Middle East and regularly watches internet footage of Wasim will do nothing to dispel the impression he is keen to stand out from the crowd.
‘I want to learn the art of reverse swing,’ he said. ‘Waqar was commentating in Dubai, so I thought I’d better grab five minutes of his time. He told me how to grip the ball. I love watching his dismissals, especially when he used to york Hicky [Graeme Hick]. That was top-drawer!
‘I was also watching Wasim on Youtube. Waqar was more slingy, but Wasim had a straighter arm, like me, and he could swing it at will without changing his action. They’re both heroes of mine.’
The 25-year-old from Huddersfieldhas been limited to 22 first-class games and only 15 one-day matches in a career blighted by injury and held up by the seemingly endless supply of fast bowlers that has come out of Headingley in recent years.
But he caught Andy Flower’s eye in the nets in Pretoriabefore Christmas while on duty for the England Performance Programme, and had the confidence in Dubai to try a slow leg-break to Pakistan’s rampant all-rounder Abdul Razzaq at a crucial stage of the match.
That particular delivery may have disappeared back over his head for six in an over costing 17, but it’s a mark of his self-belief that he said he would do the same thing again.
He said: ‘If I can show the selectors I’ve got something different going for me, a bit of extra pace, I’ll get a chance on Sunday to put to bed what happened in the last over on my Twenty20 debut. I had one of the best smashers of the game stood at the other end, but I’ve learned a lot from that. I’ll still bowl it.
‘International cricket is a big step-up, but not for me. This is where I’ve wanted to be and I’m happy to be here.’
Meanwhile, Indian Premier League supremo Lalit Modi has reacted strongly to reports that Australiacaptain Ricky Ponting has tried to persuade team-mates to pull out of next month’s IPL on security grounds.
‘I’ve been told Ricky is pressuring players not to come,’ Modi wrote on the Twitter website. ‘Maybe it was due to the fact he was dropped from KKR [the Kolkata Knight Riders franchise].’
England’s IPL players are believed to be still considering their options.