Friday, July 19, 2024

Specific focus during camps will help in countering spin in Sri Lanka, says Pakistan’s Shakeel

Pakistan’s left-handed batter Saud Shakeel believes a specific focus on playing against spin in the side’s preparatory camps in Lahore and Karachi will help him in countering spin on Sri Lankan pitches ahead of the start of two-game Test series starting from Sunday at Galle International Cricket Stadium.

Shakeel was one of the four players to make a debut in the first Test against England in Rawalpindi and was quick to make an impression with a fourth-innings knock of 76. He further made a 214-ball 94 in Multan to take Pakistan in the touching distance of chasing 355 before being declared caught behind down the leg by the third umpire.

He scored another second innings half-century in the next Test in Karachi through 53 and when New Zealand arrived in Karachi for the two Tests, he registered his maiden Test century with a 341-ball 125 not out in the second Test at the same venue where he had brought up his maiden first-class ton.

The tour to Sri Lanka, which kickstarts the 2023-25 World Test Championship cycle for both teams, will be Shakeel’s first brush with playing Test cricket away from home.

“We have had good preparations leading into this series with camps in Lahore and Karachi. I’ve focused on enhancing my skills and adding a few more shots in the repertoire.”

“There was a specific focus on spin during the camp in Lahore, which gave me good practice to counter spin on the turning tracks here. I’ve also focused on how I can score runs in Sri Lanka conditions because, in the end, it is the runs that matter.”

“I play sweep shot well, so I further improved it. Playing the sweep helps me derail the line and length of a bowler. I have also worked to improve my reverse sweep and footwork to tackle spin here,” said Shakeel to PCB Digital.

Recalling last year’s Test when Pakistan famously squared the two-match series chasing the highest-ever total of 342 in Galle on the back of Abdullah Shafique’s 160 not out, Shakeel revealed he had been talking to the opener to get more insights about playing Test cricket on challenging Sri Lankan conditions.

“We (the players) do talk about the game and share knowledge. I talk to Abdullah (Shafique) a lot because we are together mostly. When I was here with the team last year, I saw that the spinners do get help from the surfaces.”

“But if you keep on countering them by playing attacking shots regularly and keep ticking the scoreboard, you shift the pressure on the opposition. We chased 350 (342) in Galle last year, which looked an impossible task, but our plan was to go for runs and it put the opposition under pressure.”

Shakeel has previous experience playing in Sri Lanka, having captained Pakistan Shaheens when they toured Dambulla to play Sri Lanka ‘A’ in two unofficial Tests and three List-A games in 2021. He stated that having played already in Sri Lanka will come in handy over the next few weeks.

“The experience of playing domestic cricket and for the country’s ‘A’ side helps a cricketer a lot. It has helped me a great deal too. I’ve played a lot of domestic cricket in my career. I toured here with Pakistan Shaheens in 2021, though we played in a different city, it gave me an idea of how conditions are here.”

“International cricket is all about handling pressure, so if you stay calm on the wicket you can make better decisions. Off the field, as well, I am calm, and it helps me in making better decisions,” he concluded.

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