Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Shan Masood embracing challenges as Pakistan prepare to face England

Posted on 17 July 2020 by Tusdiq Din

Pakistan’s opening batsman Shan Masood will not want to be reminded of the last time he batted for his country against England in 2016. This time, he is aiming for a different outcome when Pakistan tour here this summer, as he embraces a new challenge to rectify some unfinished business.

Four years ago, Chris Woakes gave his technique a thorough examination at Lords, while Jimmy Anderson got the better of him at Old Trafford. Masood however insisted that he has learned from those experiences and moved on.

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Pakistan’s Shan Masood looking forward to renewing acquaintances with England’s bowling attack

“You learn from the past and the mistakes you made then, but you also learn not to become fixated on the past. You should also know when to move on. Things have changed from 2016. The mistakes we’ve made before we have to learn from, but we have to react to the needs of today. Nothing is constant, and I want to live in the present.

“There’s no need to put myself under extra pressure to say I need to prove this thing or the other. Practice is going well and I understand my game. The outcome isn’t controllable, but I can put in my best effort and keep my attitude positive,” said Masood via video conference.

The 30 year old has a special affinity with England. He was educated at the fee paying Stamford School in Lincolnshire and then went on to study at Durham University. The family home in London was a short hop away from Lords cricket ground, and this privilege upbringing initially raised a few eyebrows in the Pakistan camp.

Four years ago, Masood made 71 runs in four innings, with Anderson his chief tormentor. But he acknowledged the quality of the opposition ahead of when the two nations meet for three Test matches and three T20s.

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Hero. Former Pakistan cricketer Younis Khan (L) is congratulated by teammate Shan Masood after he scored a century against Sri Lanka in 2015

“Jimmy Anderson is a world-class bowler. By achievements, he’s perhaps the No. 1 fast bowler in the world right now. He carries a threat, of course, and several other England bowlers carry a threat. England’s resource depth is very good. They had few very good bowlers sitting on the bench [during the opening Test against the West Indies], particularly pacers.”

Masood had to endure a few further lows before he took his chance after a Boxing Day injury to Haris Sohail in Pakistan’s 2018/19 tour of South Africa, and he hasn’t missed any of the eight subsequent Tests Pakistan have played since.

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Masood will come up against Woakes and Anderson again this summer

In a chandeliered Derbyshire marquee, Masood articulated in Urdu, praising the host ECB’s efforts in getting the tour up and running, and ensuring that the covid-19 enforced protocols were met. The Pakistan team have been well received during their initial stay in Worcestershire, and now also in Derbyshire where the team will remain for three weeks for twice daily sessions to acclimatiise to English conditions.

“We have had a fantastic opportunity to prepare. We spent 14 days in Worcester and are going to spend another three weeks in Derby. But while coming here early has allowed us to acclimatise, there is no substitute for match time. In that sense, England have an advantage.

“But the basics don’t change; we have to figure out how to get 20 wickets, and how to score 300-400 runs in an innings. So our primary focus has to be on our preparations. We have a few advantages too, in that we can analyse their performances and work on their weaknesses. These things balance each other out.”

It is always a positive to have one of your heroes on tour, but Masood has two. He played with both Younis Khan and Misbah Ul-Haq and their presence on tour has been a bonus accepts Masood.

Masood made his maiden century as he and Khan shared a record-breaking 242-run partnership in the final innings to help Pakistan beat Sri Lanka at Pallekele in 2015.

“Younis’s stature is inarguable and his arrival makes a huge difference. He’s Pakistan’s greatest Test batsman and all batsmen in the side are eager to interact with him and draw on his experiences. The way the guys were playing in Worcester, be it in the nets or the scenario matches, he worked with everyone,” smiled Masood.

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Pakistan play three Test matches and three T20s against England

“He even works hard with our bowlers on their batting because in Test cricket, the runs they provide from the lower order are crucial too. Fifty or 60 runs added there could turn the tide of a Test match. We’re having two sessions a day, morning and evening. There’s been a hugely positive impact and we’re looking forward to learning more from him.”

Despite England slipping to a first Test against West Indies in the current Test series, Masood said that the series has a long way to go, and Pakistan will not only be watching, but learning along the way and how to best utilise their game plan

“We shouldn’t undermine England. This was the same top four that went to South Africa and won a series there. They’re playing at home and they’ll have experience of playing there regardless of whether or not they’ve played international cricket.

“But we have our own strengths, too. If you’re talking about our spinners, we have a world-class spinner in Yasir Shah. Alongside him, we have an allrounder and an able backup in Shadab Khan. So we have more than enough resources if the situation comes down to needing a spinner to lead.”

England and Pakistan play their first Test match on August 5th at Old Trafford, Manchester.