How many people do you know who finish a Ph D. and then return to take their 12th standard exams again? Ahmed Shahzad, the Pakistan under-19 team's opening batsman, must feel like that. For most kids, this World Cup is a chance to make a mark, catch the eye of selectors and perhaps get selected to state teams. For Shahzad, it is life going backwards, as he has already played four ODIs and two T20 internationals for the Pakistan senior team.
Shahzad, who says he wants to bat like Ricky Ponting, played against the Australians in Abu Dhabi last year, but was disappointed not to be able to go head-to-head with his idol, who missed that series through injury.
Saleem Jaffar, the former Pakistani fast bowler, who is currently a national selector, explains how these curious happening came about. “When we played Australia in 2009 we were short of opening options as players like Imran Farhat and Imran Nazir were at the ICL and therefore unavailable,” Jaffar told HT. “So we tried Shahzad, who made a 40 and a 43. But he's still a bit
immature for international cricket. We still consider him an option for opening the batting for the senior T20 team.”
Shahzad, who is only 18 years and 61 days old, is a veteran in these circles, having already played in an under-19 World Cup. He was Pakistan's second highest run getter in the 2008 tournament in Malaysia. The current Pakistani team have another player who is playing his second under-19 World Cup, legspinner Ahmed Shahzaib.
But Jaffar explains the logic behind picking these two. “Even at the under-19 level it's good to have some players with a bit of experience. We're keeping a close watch on Shahzad, and chief selector Iqbal Qasim thought it would be good for the youngster to send him to the World Cup.
Incredibly, Pakistan could have had a second player with senior international experience if they wanted. Left-armer Mohammed Aamer has not even turned 18 yet, and is eminently eligible to take part. “With Aamer it's different as we felt he's already ready for the senior team and is doing well,” says Jaffar.
For the moment, it's back to school for Shahzad, and things are still not going to be easy for him.