For first seven years of his international career, Asad Shafiq played under the shadow of Misbah Ul Haq and Younis Khan. But after their retirements, it’s time for the Karachi batsman to become the mainstay of a middle order around whom Pakistan can enter in the new era with great confidence.
Can Asad Shafiq do something special in the forthcoming months including the all-important England tour to make it count?
It was October 2010. A wounded Pakistan cricket hurt by spot-fixing scandals committed by three of its most prominent players was taking on a dangerous South African side. Lead by 36-year-old captain, the side had many new names. Among them was Asad Shafiq, a 24-year-old young batsman from Karachi. He was brought in the team in place of Mohammad Yousuf. The middle order stalwart had failed miserably on recent tours to Australia and selectors were looking for a young batsman who could be a long-term prospect. To his untrained eye, the mere thought of replacing a colossus in the middle order might have induced goosebumps. Instead, he made 61 on debut against an attack that comprised Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
Pakistan relished that in Asad Shafiq, there seemed to be a youngster who had the spine to not buckle under the pressure exerted by great bowlers of the game.
Fast forward to May 2018. Asad Shafiq has played 59 Tests and has collected nearly 3677 Test runs at almost 40.
A few of his innings have shown the class which he provided an ample glimpse of on his debut. But, perhaps nothing could possibly gladden those who vested faith in him any more than seeing a thinking cricketer who seems poised to build useful scores.
Shafiq’s strokes aren’t of a show-stopping quality. But his quaint, cultured batting doesn’t emote the restlessness you expect from young players still attempting to be part of a regular-11. A few seasons ago, the mild-mannered Pakistan batsman produced a masterclass at The Gabba in 2016.
This gave Pakistan an outstanding chance to win a Test in Australia. For a side so usually flustered as the sub-continental side, even holding Australia to ransom was a big win-win.
Thereafter, Asad Shafiq’s 109 at The Oval helped his side square the series 2-2.
This wasn’t too long ago.
Throughout his career, the right-hander has played in the shadow of big names at mostly no.6. In fact, he has most hundreds at the position in the game for his current side.
While he has always wished to bat at no.4- a position that thrusts a world of expectations as also the power to its challengers- till date, he hasn’t been installed in his preferred number. An interesting part of his game is Shafiq’s willingness to stitch partnerships with the tail-enders. He had batted from no. 3 to 7 and has played for multiple teams in domestic cricket as well.
A fact that he had lacked stability in his batting can be attributed to the reason that he has never got a settled position in the line up yet if he has been a mainstay of Pakistan’s batting line-up and has been in the team for almost eight years tells us a lot about his talent and potential.
Born in Gujrati Family of Karachi, Asad Shafiq played cricket like most other children on streets of Karachi with a tape ball.
“I started playing with the big boys in the ground,” told Shafiq. “And then I found the love of cricket inside me. The love took me to my first trial of hard-ball cricket at the Under-19 regional academy in Karachi. That’s how I found the love for the game and the start of my career,” Shafiq told to the Tribune in an Interview.
A shy family man, Shafiq’s greatest strength isn’t his presence in front of the camera but one on the 22 yards. There’s this calmness in his batting, a stubbornness and his solidity in technique that’s earned him the faith of selectors and the hope of cricket-hungry fans of Pakistan. His presence brings a sense of security in a line up that can, on off days, look shaky and hasn’t played a hell lot against leading sides.
Shafiq, however, knows that now with both old warhorses retired and Pakistan is looking to him and Azhar Ali to perform the same role that Misbah and Younis played for so long. He will now be batting at the no.4 position and knows that there can’t be any more excuses.
“Now the responsibility is with me, Azhar Ali and Sarfraz, the guys who have played 40-50-odd matches. It’s now our job to play more responsible innings,” Shafiq acknowledges.
While there can’t be a second thought about his dedication and commitment to the team, Asad Shafiq, however, needs to step up the game as tougher assignments await Pakistan in upcoming winter.
While it may not instantly be a career-breaking series in the wake of a failure, it can seriously amplify his presence in a Pakistan side hungrily hunting for national mainstays.
This current set of challenges may hold the power and meaning to define his career. The tour to England certainly tells us now is the time for Asad Shafiq.