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regular-article-logo Saturday, 15 June 2024

Feet on ground, Shahbaz Ahmed aims for the sky

Shahbaz’s numbers for Bengal in ongoing national T20 competition following his India appearances are a hallmark of his consistency

Sayak Banerjee Calcutta Published 31.10.22, 03:09 AM
Shahbaz Ahmed.

Shahbaz Ahmed. File picture

A debut in international cricket after just four seasons in the domestic circuit is a reasonably fair achievement for any player. But equally important is the individual’s need to keep his feet on the ground and remain focused.

Shahbaz Ahmed seems to be knowing that quite well.

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Making his Bengal debut in September 2018, the spinner all-rounder’s maiden international appearance was earlier this month, on October 9, in the second India-South Africa ODI in Ranchi. Having done a decent job with his left-arm spin, the 27-year-old finished with three wickets in the series at an economy rate of 5.05. That’s certainly not bad for someone in his maiden international series.

But those two ODIs in Ranchi and New Delhi are now history for Shahbaz. All that matters to him is constant improvement and rising to the occasion for his team, even if it is in the domestic circuit.

“Of course, playing for the country was a nice experience as one gets to learn so much at the international level. But for me, it’s all about performing for my team and contributing to my team’s success. Even if I can contribute with an unbeaten 25 as per the situation or get a wicket or two when my team needs it, that counts as well.

“I believe this is the ideal way to keep progressing. I can always keep myself in the reckoning then,” Shahbaz told The Telegraph ahead of Bengal’s Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy quarter-final clash versus Himachal Pradesh on Tuesday.

“At present, my goal is to make sure we continue to attain success in this Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. And thereafter, as I said, I just want to keep contributing to my team in all the opportunities coming my way.”

Shahbaz’s numbers for Bengal in the ongoing national T20 competition following his India appearances are a hallmark of his consistency. His 148 runs (at an average of 74 and strike rate of 151.02) and six wickets in five matches so far have been pivotal to Bengal finishing as group toppers and earning a direct quarter-final berth.

Even in Bengal’s runners-up finish in the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy just before the outbreak of the pandemic and their semi-final journey last season, Shahbaz’s performances were critical. It’s not without reason that the Cricket Association of Bengal named him Bengal’s best cricketer in back-to-back seasons (2020-21 and 2021-22).

Elaborating on the taste of international cricket, Shahbaz stressed the need to improve day by day. “Well, it wasn’t as if I was in a completely new environment as I had played alongside those guys as well as against them in the IPL. But yeah, international cricket does emphasise the need to improve each day. In fact, that has been a learning for me,” Shahbaz said.

VVS Laxman’s presence in the coaching staff of the Shikhar Dhawan-led team was also quite beneficial for Shahbaz. “Under his (Laxman’s) supervision, I’ve spent enough time at our CAB (Cricket Association of Bengal) Vision camps. His advice to me was, ‘Just focus on improvement on a daily basis and look to evolve yourself as much as possible’ .”

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