From PJL to PSL: Shawaiz Irfan's inspiring journey

Shawaiz has come through the domestic Under-19 circuit, performing for Lahore and Central Punjab’s U19 teams

From PJL to PSL: Shawaiz Irfan's inspiring journey PHOTO: PCB

There are many people out there who do not necessarily agree with the idea of Pakistan Junior League (PJL) or some may not agree with the way it was executed. However, not many people can deny that there were some talented players that were unearthed from the platform of PJL.

From those players that came through PJL, Shawaiz Irfan is one of the most exciting. Shawaiz has come through the domestic Under-19 circuit, performing for Lahore and Central Punjab’s U19 teams.

Lahore Qalandars and wicket-keepers:

There has been a very odd relationship between Lahore Qalandars and their wicket-keepers. Either you would find a local keeping wickets who was not contributing with the bat and was not ready for PSL, or some foreign player who had mediocre returns with the bat, or someone who was at the twilight of their career. To put it in a quantitative manner, Lahore’s wicket-keepers overall have the batting average of 17.9.

Some huge names like Brendan McCullum and AB de Villiers were associated with the franchise, as well but due to them being at the end of their career, they had given up keeping at that point. This has been one of the problems for Qalandars that hindered their pursuit of the PSL trophy in the earlier years.

Local batters in PSL:

In PSL, a local batter is considered to be very valuable especially in middle order. Even though Shawaiz played as an opener in the final of Pakistan Junior League, he batted in most of the tournament in the middle order.

Shawaiz can be the long-term solution for this wicket keeping problem of Qalandars, however, for this the fans need to show patience.

Middle order T20 batting:

Batting in the middle order in T20s is a very hard job to do, young batters like Haider Ali and Azam Khan have been criticized a lot. Many of their critics say they are very irresponsible and throw their wicket away, however, you have to realize that this is the requirement of the role.

In the words of former chief selector, Mohammad Wasim, we want the players to value their wickets more even when they are batting in middle order, however, that needs to change.

However, where exactly in the middle order should Shawaiz bat for the defending champions?

How to fit Shawaiz in Lahore Qalandars’ setup?

Lahore Qalandars’ top order was very stable last year and was one of the reasons behind Lahore’s title winning season. Thus, you cannot fit Shawaiz at the top to take advantage of the powerplay’s field restrictions.

For positioning him in the middle order, we need to see his what his favourable matchup is:

The division between Shawaiz’s run scoring against fast bowling and spin shows two different approaches. Against spin, he has been a little conservative and has looked to play it through. While against pace, Shawaiz has sent them to all parts of the ground.

If we divide his run scoring against spin further, we can see how he fares against different types of spinners:

Against spin, even though he has not scored runs as freely against finger spin, Shawaiz has looked comfortable at the crease against wrist spinners. Even though he was dismissed once by Momin Qamar, he still looked comfortable against both right-arm and left-arm wrist spin. Even though the sample size might be small, he has not scored runs quickly against them.

Where should Shawaiz bat in PSL?

With his struggles against finger spin, it might be a tad bit risky positioning him at 4 and he might not be able to face the pacers much too against whom he looked very comfortable against in the PJL.

So with the likes of Fakhar Zaman, Abdullah Shafique, Kamran Ghulam and Hussain Talat above him, Shawaiz Irfan might be slotted in at number 5 to take advantage of his pace hitting as well, but not too low, so as to give him time at the crease.

To avoid putting Shawaiz in a difficult position in his first PSL season, Lahore Qalandars should also take into account entry points. In my opinion, they should not send him later than the 15 over mark and Lahore also has some brilliant players that can hit it all over the park in death overs and have been doing it for a while, David Wiese is probably the best example for this, he has been doing this for Lahore Qalandars since quite a few years. So they don’t need to put extra pressure on Shawaiz by playing him so low down the order.

Shawaiz might not even have the numbers to bat in a finisher-esque role. The general requirement of the role is to start quickly which is quite a tough job to pull off regularly for any batter, let alone an emerging batter. Shawaiz’s starting strike-rate (strike-rate in first 10 balls) in the PJL was just 123 which drops below 100 if we do not count his innings in the tournament’s final. So it is not ideal to send him to bat after the 15 over mark.

Another way of fitting Shawaiz in the lineup can be at number 3, at this position he will get enough time to ease himself in and even get the benefit of the fielding restrictions.

Impact of Supplementary picks:

With Lahore Qalandars picking Kusal Mendis and Sam Billings in the supplementary/replacement draft, it might get more difficult to fit in Shawaiz Irfan in the lineup but considering their partial availabilities alongwith Jordan Cox, Shawaiz Irfan should probably get enough game time in this PSL.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of Cricket Pakistan.