Who is Shahbaz Ahmed, the all-rounder who replaced Washington Sundar in India's squad for Zimbabwe ODIs

Published on Aug 17, 2022 06:50 PM IST

Shahbaz has been selected in the Indian squad for the three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe, as an injury replacement for Washington Sundar who has been ruled out of the series due to a shoulder injury sustained during a county game for Lancashire in England.

File photo of Shahbaz Ahmed of Royal Challengers Bangalore celebrating the wicket of Abdul Samad of Sunrisers Hyderabad during Indian Premier League cricket match between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, in Chennai, (PTI)
File photo of Shahbaz Ahmed of Royal Challengers Bangalore celebrating the wicket of Abdul Samad of Sunrisers Hyderabad during Indian Premier League cricket match between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, in Chennai, (PTI)

Cricketer Shahbaz Ahmed made a name for himself while playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022. But the all-rounder's main vision has always been donning Team India's iconic blue jersey. And come the ODI series against Zimbabwe, Shahbaz's dream just might become a reality. Shahbaz, who was named the injured Washington Sundar's replacement, comes into the team on the back of phenomenal performances for West Bengal in Ranji Trophy 2022 and for RCB in the IPL 2022.

Born in Mewat in Haryana, Shahbaz made his List A debut for West Bengal against Jammu and Kashmir in 2018-19 Vijay Hazare Trophy, where he scored 662 runs at an average of 47.28 in 26 matches. With a highest score of 107, Shahbaz has hit two centuries and two fifties. Besides, the left-arm spinner also took 24 wickets in the format with best bowling figures of three wickets for 35 runs.

Shahbaz made his first-class cricket debut against Hyderabad in Ranji Trophy 2018. Playing 18 matches in the format, he scored 1041 runs at an average of 41.64. He has one century and seven half centuries to his name in the format. The all-rounder has scalped 57 wickets in first-class cricket with best bowling figures of 7/57.

After making his T20 debut against Haryana in 2019, Shahbaz played 56 matches, scored 512 runs including one fifty and picked up 39 wickets at an economy of 7.24. Shahbaz's watershed moment came during the Ranji Trophy 2019-20, where he amassed 509 runs in 11 matches at an average of 36.35 with four half-centuries. With the ball, he grabbed 35 wickets with a best of 7/57 and projected himself as an all-rounder as he was among the top three batters for the state and emerged as the team's best bowler.

Shahbaz was rewarded for his hard work at the domestic level with a contract for RCB ahead of the 2020 season, but got only two opportunities, where he couldn't do much. In 2021, he played 11 matches but scored 59 runs and took seven wickets. Finally, it was the IPL 2022, where Shahbaz rose to the occasion and scored 219 runs from 16 matches.

With impact all-rounders like Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Deepak Chahar, Washington Sundar and Axar Patel playing for Team India across all formats, Shahbaz found no takers for a year. But 2022 has proved to be the game-changing year for him. Through his all-round skills, Shahbaz helped RCB reach the IPL playoffs. He stitched some important partnerships for his side, especially with the likes of Dinesh Karthik, who was knocking on the doors of selectors for an India comeback.

The all-rounder further proved himself in the Ranji Trophy 2021-22 season, in which his team made it to the semifinals, where his team lost to Madhya Pradesh. He led by example in batting and bowling. In five games across ten innings, he scored 482 runs at an average of 60.25, with a century and three fifties under his belt. With 20 wickets, he was also the leading wicket-taker for his side.

With such terrific performances, Shahbaz finally made in to the Indian squad. Though coming in as an injury replacement, his ability and performances cannot be ignored. Shahbaz adds to India's growing arsenal of spin-bowling all-rounders. Team India already has Sundar, Hooda, Axar and veteran Ashwin playing the role of all-rounders, and if Shahbaz can make his opportunities count, he could very well become a serious contender.

India squad for 3 ODIs: KL Rahul (captain) Shikhar Dhawan (vice-captain), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Shubman Gill, Deepak Hooda, Rahul Tripathi, Ishan Kishan (wicket-keeper), Sanju Samson (wicket-keeper), Shahbaz Ahmed, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel, Avesh Khan, Prasidh Krishna, Mohammed Siraj and Deepak Chahar.

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