One of the biggest positives of 2016 for Pakistan might have been Sharjeel Khan becoming the destructive opener that he is now. Pakistan was in search of a stable opening pair after multiple failures, trying almost every combination and permutation possible. The search was unsuccessful as one if not both members of every pair failed time after time. Shehzad failed. Azhar Ali was good against Zimbabwe but failed against quality sides. Just like them, many others failed.
Sharjeel’s big break came when he fired on all cylinders in the semi-final of the inaugural edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL). Sharjeel went big and scored a hundred, helping his team put up an impossibly high total against the popular Peshawar Zalmi, captained by Afridi. This performance put Islamabad into the finals of the first edition of the PSL.
Islamabad United, captained by Misbah-ul-Haq, went on to win this inaugural edition of PSL. It was a moment of celebration for everybody supporting Islamabad United, but more importantly, this was when the attention helped Sharjeel break onto the international scene. He got selected in the Pakistan squad for the World T20, and he didn’t disappoint.
Sharjeel’s good ride had begun. He had one job to do: open the innings & go berserk. Try to hit everything out of the park, try to get as many runs as quickly as possible, and try to give Pakistan a flying start. Sharjeel did this all. He gave Pakistan a flying start more often than not, but Pakistan just wasn’t able to capitalize on those starts. Sharjeel was doing his job fine, but the rest were not.
Sharjeel was, and is destructive. The opposition would fear him and the quick starts he provided, but they breathed easy instead, as the main problem was that no one else would capitalize on those starts. It would almost always end up in Pakistan losing the match.
Losing a match from a winning position hurts the most, and that was what Pakistan would do every time after Sharjeel would set it up for them. It had become a ritual for them and even the fans got sick of it. They would come to watch only the flying blitz of Sharjeel and leave the match after his dismissal, because they already knew that winning was a task that Pakistan would not be able to complete.
Everybody got the point. Everybody knew that Sharjeel was the main entertainment of a Pakistani match. It had become evident that Sharjeel would come, hit a few boundaries through the leg-side in a Lara-esque manner, fly away to a fifty of thirty deliveries, hitting a few out of the park and a few along the ground timed to perfection, and in the end would end up giving his wicket away in the pursuit of more quick runs to make an even better platform.
Now, Sharjeel’s quickfire runs and blazing starts are all positives for Pakistan, but these positives are negated by the fact that even the opposition knows that Sharjeel isn’t a threat anymore. Even when he makes his quick-fire fifties and sixties at the very start, they know that neither he nor his teammates will capitalize on them.
Sharjeel has become more of an entertainment than a threat.
Entertainment is fine. Entertainment is useful, even, and Sharjeel is playing his part to perfection. It’s all those around him who need to support him. He is providing everything that is asked of him, but others aren’t performing their up to the mark, and that makes Sharjeel’s efforts worthless. If Warner gives Australia a blazing start, there are others who carry that start and mold it into a perfect innings that possibly leads to a match-winning performance. Brendon McCullum used to do it for New Zealand: after he gave them a good start, the talents of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor would help them post a healthy total.
The surge at the start is very important. When a team has such a great asset, it is a bonus in today’s age, but the asset must be used correctly else it won’t result in match winning performances. Sharjeel is that asset for Pakistan. The asset is performing, but no one else is backing it up. That is the reason Sharjeel isn’t a threat anymore, just an entertainment for the fans and just another “it’s only a matter of time, he’ll get out soon” sort of a player for the opposition.
As long as he is not a threat, his effectiveness won’t result in anything good for Pakistan.
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