“The core question we are confronted with now is that if Shan 2.0 was a hoax or whether he would get his act together and we’ll get to see that Shan again who can judge which balls to play and which ones to leave.”
In the absence of Babar Azam and with Pakistan’s most senior batsman Azhar Ali suffering a form slump, Shan Masood carried a heavy load on his shoulders to save Pakistan’s batting against a top-quality Kiwi bowling attack.
This Shan Masood wasn’t the same who was sidelined from the team after abject performances with the bat when James Anderson made him dance to his tunes during Pakistan’s tour of England in 2016
It was the rejuvenated Shan Masood, also touted as Shan 2.0. The 2018 tour of South Africa, 2019 tour of Australia and 2020 tour of England where he struck a remarkable ton at Old Trafford confirmed that Shan Masood 2.0 had worked on his flaws, upped his game drastically and could be relied upon to solve Pakistan’s top-order woes.
However, the recent tour of New Zealand has laid bare his technical frailties again. Across four innings, he could muster a tally of 10 runs, including three ducks on the trot, and seemed to be like the replica of Shan 1.0 who has harked back to his old ways. Even 17-year-old Naseem Shah, Pakistan’s No.11 batsman, managed a higher tally of runs in the series than Shan. Before proceeding to deconstruct what sets Shan 2.0 apart from Shan 1.0, let’s revisit his dismissals during the series.
Barring the first innings of the first test where he scored 10 thanks to a few painstaking nudges and nurdles, he failed to buy a single run in the next three innings. In the first innings of the first test, he ended up giving a catch to wicketkeeper BJ Watling trying to glide Jamieson towards the third man region. Tim Southee accounted for him in the next innings when he edged him to Ross Taylor standing at the first slip attempting a defensive prod off a ball pitching outside the off-stump. Under the pump to score big in the next match, he ended up registering a pair. Southee had him plumb in the first innings when he failed to get a bat on his yorker and then Jamieson’s away angler induced an outside edge of his bat which was pouched safely by Tim Southee at the third slip wrapping up a miserable tour for him.
Fair play to New Zealand bowlers for their disciplined bowling but, to be honest, none of the deliveries which sent Shan back to the pavilion weren’t brute or corker of a delivery but then that’s par for the course for a batsman who couldn’t resist the temptation to chase deliveries away from the stumps, leave them alone and not poke his bat at it. Things would have gotten easier for him and Pakistan if he had managed to see off the new ball with patience. Interestingly, as told by Shan Masood in an interview with Jarrod Kimber for the Red Inker podcast, it was his judgement of not being able to decide when to play at a ball and when it is wide enough to let it go that coach Gary Palmer identified as a flaw in his technique after 2016 tour of England. Palmer, according to Shan, remarked that he was susceptible to throw his bat at balls that could be safely left alone because of incorrect positioning of his head when facing the bowler which in turn adversely impacted his judgement.
On the back of strong performances in domestic, he earned his way back into the side and fared reasonably well on the tough tours to South Africa, Australia and England thereby passing the attrition test and announcing the arrival of rejuvenated Shan 2.0. It was evident that the net sessions with Palmer helped him to chip away at his flaws. As pointed by Tim Wigmore in his article for The Telegraph, during the 2020 tour of England, Shan left 22 per cent of balls from seamers to him pitched 20cm outside off stump as compared to the 2016 tour where he left only three per cent of deliveries bowled in that channel. Shan 2.0 was like a breath of fresh air. However, watching the 83 balls he played in this series, it seemed like all the skills he learned from Palmer had evaporated in unison. The core question we are confronted with now is that if Shan 2.0 was a hoax or whether he would get his act together and we’ll get to see that Shan again who can judge which balls to play and which ones to leave.