- The Sindh captain speaks about his batting and the transformation of his team in the interview available here
Lahore, 25 October 2022: At the halfway stage of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2022-23, Sindh, who sit at the second spot with 74 points from five matches, have their eyes set on what would be their first final since the introduction of a better and more competitive domestic cricket structure in 2019.
On Monday, they recorded their second win on the bounce as they rolled over Balochistan in a commanding 10-wicket win, thanks to outstanding spells from fast bowler Ghulam Mudassar and mystery spinner Abrar Ahmed – the two registered five-wicket hauls in the first and second innings respectively.
That Abrar – who stretched his blistering form to the third match with his fourth five-fer in six innings – had runs on the board to play with was because of his captain. Sindh were struggling at 61 for three in reply of Balochistan’s 269 and seemed on course for a below-par score, before Saud Shakeel pushed back the opposition with a defiant century that eventually put his side 121 runs ahead and paved way for a comfortable chase of 70 on the final day.
Sindh made 390 and Saud scored almost 50 per cent of those runs on his way to his career-best first-class score of 187 not out. This was his second successive hundred while he scored the first of his three tons this season against Northern in Faisalabad three weeks back with a gritty 158.
The left-hander had scored 13 centuries before this game in his brief 53-match first-class career, but what turned this innings into one of his best works was how he anchored his team back into the match.
Saud soaks pressure amidst collapses and he is the only batter in the ongoing edition of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy to have faced more than a thousand balls (1,077 to be precise). Realising the need to wear out the opposition as he rebuild the innings, Saud batted for 387 balls, stitching partnerships worth 99 with Fawad Alam (51), 107 with Muhammad Umar (44) and 70 with Ghulam.
The latter half of his magnificent innings stands out the most as he added 186 runs with the tail (batters from nine till 11) that lay an emphasis on how he can command an innings despite lack of support from the other end, something integral for middle-order batters.
“The key is to stick with the process and have faith,” said Saud, 27, after his side’s victory yesterday. “I follow a set process and have belief in my hard work. Rather than focusing on the uncontrollable, I focus on my process and that is reaping rewards.”
He is the best batter amongst non-Test players this edition with 486 runs at an average of almost 70. Overall, he is third on the list of the batters with most runs behind Central Punjab’s duo of Abdullah Shafique (531) and Azhar Ali (503).
He is one of the three players – Azhar and Tayyab Tahir being the other two – to have smashed three centuries this season.
Being a part of the national squad over the past few seasons has provided him access to plethora of batting knowledge with Mohammad Yousuf as the batting coach of the men’s side and over the national side’s assignments, Saud has made sure he makes the most of it.
“There’s always room for fine-tuning and the presence of Mohammad Yousuf has helped me in that regard. He is one of the greatest batters this country has ever produced and he provides me guidelines on how I can continue to excel as a batter.”
Saud made his first-class debut for Karachi Region Whites in October 2015 and is an ardent proponent of the format. When asked to reflect on the impact of longer-format on his career, Saud spoke how it provides a 360-degree evolution to a cricketer.
“First-class cricket has played an integral role in my development as a cricketer and I believe every youngster should play first-class cricket,” he said. “This format tests you. You are challenged every day – physically and mentally every session. My suggestion to every youngster is to attach the same level of importance with first-class cricket that you attach with T20.
Sindh missed out securing a berth in the final of the previous Quaid-e-Azam Trophy edition by seven points to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This edition, they have defeated Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and have emerged as one of the contenders to play the final as their brilliant run in the 2022-23 season continues that started by bagging the National T20.
Saud credits his bowling unit for his side’s strong showing. “This bowling attack is making my life easy as a captain,” he said. “The most important bit in winning a first-class match is the ability to take all 20 opposition wickets and that is something which we had been lacking in the last seasons. This year, I have a solid bowling line-up.
“Abrar Ahmed has been good in the three matches he has played and he is the leading wicket-taker. Mir Hamza is also amongst the top wicket-takers. Ghulam Mudassar, playing his first [second] game, chipped in. Muhammad Umar continues to improve day by day and Asif is providing us breakthroughs at crucial moments.”
While his bowlers have stepped up this season, Sindh will continue to look at their captain to deliver with the bat at crunch situations as he did in Rawalpindi over the weekend as they aim for a maiden Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final under the competitive six-team structure.