Hambantota, 19 August 2023: Saud Shakeel has tumbled records in his nascent Test career. He is the only batter in the history of the game to score at least a half-century in the first seven Tests. No Pakistan batter has averaged 87.50 after his first seven Tests. And, his 208 not out at Galle – that delivered Pakistan a famous win in July – is the highest score by a Pakistani in Sri Lanka.
Saud was in sublime touch in the two-Test series in Sri Lanka last month. He banished the perception of being an old-school Test cricketer and displayed some exceptional shots to dispatch the ball all around the dial. His double-century at Galle underscored how commandingly he could switch gears according to the match situation. He clubbed boundaries by sweeping against the spin, jumping down the wicket and by often bringing his supple wrists into play to manoeuvre the fields. At one point, in that innings, his scoring rate was over 80 runs per hundred balls.
Prior to landing in Sri Lanka for what was his first away series, Saud’s career strike rate stood at 41. Here, he scored 295 runs at just under 58 in three innings.
These splendid performances have seen Saud back in the One-Day International side after almost 16 months. That now he has seven Tests under his belt, which was not the case when he made his ODI debut in England over two years ago, will help his limited-overs game, the left-handed batter believes.
“This is an amazing opportunity for me to make the most of my current batting form,” the 27-year-old told PCB Digital after arriving in Hambantota. “I had not played Test cricket when I made my ODI debut. Test is the most difficult format and it tests you in every aspect. Obviously, ODI and T20I cricket is a bit easier than it, but playing Test cricket has helped me grow as a player. I have developed self-belief that may help me in ODIs.”
Saud had made the most of the off-season by developing a wide-array of strokes ahead of the last Test series. He spent hours in Karachi, his hometown, further polishing sweep shots and developing different shots to hit against the spin with the aim of scoring at rapid rates. This perfectly married with The Pakistan Way, which demands positive and bold strokeplay.
“When I was coming to Sri Lanka, I had a particular plan in my mind about how I was going to bat, and that included a change in approach than the one I had in the New Zealand Tests,” he said. “The game plan provided by the support staff [which revolved around positive and attacking brand] also suited my preparations. So, everything came together nicely for me.
“It did not take me much to change my approach mentally, as all I had to do was apply in the ground for what I had been preparing. If we talk about sweep, I had prepared for it against off-spinners, and I was looking forward to applying it in matches. It is very important that you apply what you have learned in the ground because as you get results, you start trusting yourself and building on it.”
The last few months have Saud all set to brandish his strokes in ODI cricket and he doesn’t have any intentions of holding back.
“ODI cricket has a separate demand, especially how this format is evolving. I will look to make my plan according to these demands, and continue back myself to apply the skills that I have learned and stick to the process.”