The extraordinary rise to fame of the eighteen-year-old leg-spinner Shadab Khan on the back of an outstanding PSL and two back-to-back Man-of-the-Match winning performances in the T20I series against the West Indies has surprised many. However, Shadab's talent and great start for Pakistan is no surprise for his Islamabad United Coach Dean Jones.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Jones spoke about the qualities which make Shadab Khan a stand-out talent, areas that the Islamabad coaches worked upon with Shadab and put forward a case for his inclusion in the Pakistan Test squad for the ongoing tour against the West Indies.
By Amir Husain (31st March, 2017)
PakPassion.net : Are you surprised with the impact Shadab Khan has had in his first two matches for Pakistan?
Dean Jones : No, I am not. I always thought that he could do well. He is an interesting player to coach and I have said this before as well, that for an eighteen-year-old-kid he has the head of a thirty-year-old on him. He thinks about what the opposition players are about to do and most importantly, he is prepared to listen which is not what kids tend to do first-up. He has pretty much hit the ground running and yes, he will get whacked a few times in his career but Pakistan have something special there; they have a special kid and that’s for sure.
PakPassion.net : At eighteen he has no pressure and I guess no fear of failure. That must surely help him?
Dean Jones : A lot of people don’t like eighteen or nineteen year olds playing international cricket. This is definitely the case in Australia with a few exceptions of course like Darren Lehmann. No one expects youngsters at the age of fifteen to win Olympic gold medals as when you put too much pressure on kids like that then they can get hurt, but they still win those medals. But Shadab is different, he is mature beyond his years.
PakPassion.net : Which areas of weakness were identified when he was working with you at Islamabad United?
Dean Jones : He did come in with a few technical difficulties with his action and run-up, and we helped him with it during the PSL. We spoke with him about, and gave examples of Shane Warne, whom he admires a lot. We also mentioned the technique of Mushtaq Ahmed to him as well. Then we also brought up the name of Stuart Macgill to show him how all of these spinners got close to the crease. We asked him to adjust his bowling and told him that his landing zones needed to be different and better so that he could get batsmen out with his leg-breaks instead of the wrong'uns which he was relying on a lot more before his stint at the PSL. The fact that is he is now bowling on the off and middle stump line and the batsmen aren’t picking him at all. Initially, he was bowling wide off the crease, almost six inches to a foot wide, to try and get batsmen out using his wrong’un all the time. By doing this, in my view, he was selling himself short. So, we had to get him to straighten his run-up a bit so that he could land the ball on the middle-stump and off stump after which the ball would turn or not depending on conditions. To achieve this, we had to get him to train on special ‘dance’ steps to accustom himself to a straightened run-up. These were dance steps marked on the carpet of his hotel room so that he could practice before going to sleep and within a week or so, he was all set with this revised run-up and ready to go. He went from an Abdul Qadir type approach to the crease to a much straighter one now. He is certainly not averse to changing his technique and take a few risks along the way which is great.
PakPassion.net : It's great for Pakistan cricket that he is much more than just a leg-spinner?
Dean Jones : We admire and talk about his bowling, but it's worth mentioning that he is probably the best fieldsman in the Pakistan side at the moment. On top of that, he can bat too and some of those sixes he hit over cover in Dubai during the PSL were just breathtaking. These are the skills which make him the complete package.
PakPassion.net : What's Shadab like in the dressing room?
Dean Jones : I wouldn’t call him an introvert but he is a little shy and careful about the people around him. The main thing is that when he gets the ball in his hand, he knows exactly what he has to do. Now for a kid who hasn’t played that much cricket yet, it is amazing to see how he just seems to know where to bowl and has the confidence to back it up. I have no idea where that quality comes from but the guy is a genius.
PakPassion.net : What were your first impressions of Shadab when you saw him at practice?
Dean Jones : The very first time Wasim Akram and I saw Shadab in the nets, we looked at each other and said this boy is pure gold. We also had former Pakistan off-spinner Tauseef Ahmed to help him out which worked well. In a way, we just opened the gates of the ground for Shadab to play on and whilst he only trusts certain people about advice on his technique, we have now got him into an area where he is very very good.
PakPassion.net : Now that he has been successful in T20Is and also picked for the ODI squad, there is talk of him being picked for the Test squad. What are your thoughts on that?
Dean Jones : That would be fantastic news if he is picked for the Test squad and why not. Let’s get him in there, he's good enough. Look it's possible he may not do too well in there initially but on the other hand, he may well be very successful. I would hate to pigeon hole someone like Shadab as a specialist Twenty20 or One-Day cricketer if he can play all forms of the game. Obviously, it puts pressure on Yasir Shah whose fielding hasn’t been that good of late and he hasn’t made many runs as well and most importantly, he does not have a wrong’un like Shadab does. So, Shadab may not have the control that Yasir does but he is definitely someone who can be worked upon to improve in this area. The current tour of West Indies is just the type of a nice development Test tour, unlike those of England or Australia, where if given a chance we can find out where he’s at with his game. It is possible that someone will break him in Tests as he is worked out by the opposition but then we can always put the pieces together for him but frankly speaking, we don’t have to do too much as he is pretty good now.
PakPassion.net : Given his current success and potential ability to play in leagues around the world, what should Shadab’s priority be?
Dean Jones : If I were in his shoes, I would avoid playing too much Twenty20 cricket. Having said that, I would love him to play the BBL so that he can get some experience of playing in Australia. It’s not just about playing in leagues but about travelling and learning to stay away from home, learning to find new friends and that kind of stuff. He seems to have a good manager and a good bunch of people who can work with him. All in all, we just need to make sure we don’t flog him too hard, too early. But then, it also depends on how his Test experience goes. If all of a sudden, he starts to do well in Tests then that cancels out his involvement with a lot of the Twenty20 leagues. What he needs to do now is work on his fitness and also develop his batting as well. He has the ability to bat as we saw in the PSL where some of the sixes he hit were simply mind boggling. Also, in terms of attitude, all the boys love him in the team as he is a quiet and humble kid which is really nice. To me, he is a wonderful product of Pakistan cricket.
PakPassion.net : Many other youngsters have come and gone in Pakistan cricket but is Shadab Khan the real deal?
Dean Jones : He is the real deal for sure but it is imperative that such talented young kids have mentors around them who they can trust and work with. More importantly, the mentors have to be available to advise Shadab 24x7 as things can happen at any time of the day or night. This kind of support is important to steer these kids away from others who can tempt them to do silly and stupid things. All I can say is that you can have all the money in the world but what it comes down to is the respect that you get from people when you walk into a room based upon what you have done as a cricketer. We see that in the case of players like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed where the whole world admires them for their cricketing achievements. Let me assure you that they would have much more fun taking 5fers and winning World Cups for their country then having five million dollars in their personal bank accounts.