Karachi: Pakistan opener Ahmed Shehzad has dismissed the tag of being indisciplined and having attitude problems, insisting that his ambition was to play 100 Test matches for the nation.
The 23-year old also made it clear that he didn’t like being compared to India’s Virat Kohli nor was he keen to replicate his achievements.
“My motto is to enjoy cricket and I like playing cricket with a sense of freedom and joy. I like to dress well, eat well and am bit of a showman and if you don’t have attitude you can’t be a more than average professional sportsman,” Shehzad said. (Also read: Umar Gul wants Pakistan’s domestic system to be like in India)
“But to say that I am indisciplined or have attitude problems is not correct. I have my own style and I like to enjoy life but that does not mean I am not a team man, good professional athlete or I don’t respect my teammates. Many impressions about me are misplaced,” he said.
Reminded that head coach Waqar Younis and captain Misbah-ul-Haq had recommended dropping him from the national team after the World Cup because of discipline issues, Shehzad questioned whether anyone including the media had really gone through the report.
“There are lot of conjunctions about the report and some misunderstanding. Obviously they are differences and issues in a team which is like a family. But that does not mean I am not disciplined. Why they filed that report is something they can answer best,” Shehzad said.
Insisting that he had learnt and changed from his past mistakes Shehzad said that he would like to be treated as a 23 year old youngster and not a 28 to 30-year-old in the team.
“I know I don’t always deliver at the crease but whenever I do I just want my team management to remember I am still just 23 years and judge my performances on that.”
Shehzad was responding to a question that although there was lot of stress on playing youngsters in the team he and others like Umar Akmal or Asad Shafiq tended to be scrutinized more often for their performances.
The youngster, who has played 11 Tests and 70 one-day internationals so far also admitted that he was upset at not getting a chance to play in Lahore, Pakistan against Zimbabwe in the ODI series when it became the first foreign team to visit Pakistan in six years time.
“Yes definitely that was a disappointment not to get to play in front of my home crowd but hopefully that chance will come soon,” he said.
On the constant comparison with Kohli, Shehzad made it clear he didn’t like that.
“There is no comparison, he plays for India I play for Pakistan. He has his own ambitions, I have mine. And I am sure when I have played the number of ODIs and Tests that he has played I would have also achieved a lot. But right now I have played just 70 he has played double that figure so comparisons should not be made by the media.”
Asked about his own ambitions as an international cricketer, Shehzad was clear that for him Test cricket remained the ultimate challenge in all three formats and he would love to play 100 tests for Pakistan.
“I just feel that the challenges you face in a test it does not come in the other formats which have their own challenges. Playing a 100 Tests is my only ambition.”
Shehzad also insisted that he enjoyed a good relationship with his seniors and the team management including Waqar.
“At first I had a different outlook but now after having seen the hard work put in by Waqar bhai and the other coaching staff I respect them and their efforts. There is no doubt that Waqar has introduced positivity in the team and we have been told all the time to just go and play aggressive cricket but sensibly without bothering about the pitch conditions or the opponents.
“This is a marked difference now that we are being told we must be prepared to play aggressively in any circumstances and everyone must work towards achieving that goal.”
Shehzad said he himself was a naturally aggressive player but had tempered his instincts as he gained experience. “I work a lot more on my technique and mental outlook now. After being hit by that Corey Anderson bouncer last year against New Zealand I worked very hard to find the right body balance while playing short pitched balls and it has given me more confidence.”
“I am satisfied with my Test batting average of nearly 44 but would like to improve my ODI average of 35 and my overall strike rate. I am sure with the passage of time these averages will improve and there will be more centuries as well,” said Shehzad.
To a question he noted that when Kohli had played 70 ODIs he had around same number of runs (2500) and one century more than the six scored by him.
Shehzad said he would like to emulate the feats of Younis Khan and Inzamam-ul-Haq who are batting greats for Pakistan.
“Younis, I admire and respect a lot because despite all his performances he is very down to earth and lets his bat do the talking. I have a different personality I am more outgoing but Younis is a role model for us.”
About his much talked about friendship with flamboyant allrounder Shahid Afridi, the opener said he was like an elder brother to him and his mentor.
“As a captain also Shahid bhai is more aggressive and thinks out of the hat and sometimes he succeeds sometimes he fails. In comparison Misbah-ul-Haq as captain is more off a meticulous planner and shrewd.”