Shehzad eager to pounce on comeback opportunity

Pakistan opener comes back in the national set-up at the back of a prolific 2019 HBL PSL

Shehzad eager to pounce on comeback opportunity PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan’s Twenty20 International (T20I) series against Sri Lanka, which commences from Saturday, comes with an opportunity for many youngsters to leave a mark with a year remaining in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Men’s T20 World Cup 2020 in Australia.

For Pakistan’s opener Ahmed Shehzad, however, this is a chance to reclaim a spot which he once held firmly. He last donned Pakistan colours in June 2018 in a T20I series against Scotland.

To be back in the squad after a gap of over 14 months, Ahmed says, feels like to be wearing Pakistan’s kit for the first time.

“I am thankful to the Almighty that I have gotten an opportunity to represent the Pakistan team once again,” Ahmed told ahead of joining the 16-member squad in Lahore. “For me, this opportunity feels like I am wearing the Pakistan’s kit for the first time. I am extremely excited I will get an opportunity to play cricket at my home ground and in front of my people.”

“It cannot get any bigger for me to be playing cricket in front of my people. Our people are passionate about the game. It unites us and people pray for our success,” he added.

Ahmed, who made his Pakistan debut in 2009, comes back in the national set-up at the back of a prolific Habib Bank Limited (HBL) Pakistan Super League (PSL) earlier this year. The right-handed opener scored 311 runs at an impressive average of 51.83 – the best amongst the top 10 run-getters in the 2019 edition.

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He scored fifties in half of his eight innings in the tournament, with an unbeaten 51-ball 58 in the final against Peshawar Zalmi at the National Stadium, Karachi which helped Quetta Gladiators to their maiden title.

“It is not easy to be making a comeback in the Pakistan side for the fifth-sixth time,” he said. “Getting dropped again and again doesn’t reflect well. But, where this is a negative, to keep coming back in the side is a positive. It demands ticking a lot of boxes and for that a lot of improvement has to be made.”

He remains the only Pakistan batsman to hit a century in the shortest format at the international level, a feat he achieved against Bangladesh during the 2014 World T20.

The 27-year-old is looking to make the most of the opportunity at hand and hopes it will help him secure spots in the national line-up for the other formats too.

“This is a new beginning for me and I have to grab this opportunity with both hands and make sure I don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “T20I is my favourite, but my ultimate favourite is Test cricket. But, at the moment, I am looking to perform in whichever format I am getting chances.”

“I want to contribute to the dressing room and bring in positivity by educating the youngsters and help them stay away from the mistakes that I made,” he concluded.