Will Yasir Shah regain his past glory?
February 1, 2022 06:41 PM
It was November 2018 when Pakistan was hosting New Zealand in the United Arab Emirates and that was the most important series for legendary Leg Spinner Yasir Shah. He was striving hard to reach the milestone of fastest bowler to grab 200 wickets in Test cricket. The record was owned by CV Grimmett of Australia who managed to get 200 Test wickets in just 36 matches and this milestone was achieved in 1936. During the last 82 years, no bowler had been able to break this record. R Ashwin had narrowly missed the chance to break this record and completed the double century of Test wickets in 37 matches. He, somehow, managed to complete this target in just 4 years and 321 days which was the shortest period.
When Yasir Shah reached UAE to play against New Zealand, he already had 173 wickets under his belt in just 30 Test matches. It was then expected that he might need another Test series to reach the milestone as in a series of three Test matches it was looking difficult to grab 27 wickets. He started the series with 8 wickets in the Abu Dhabi Test which gave him hope and motivation for the next matches. Dubai Test was the best Test of Yasir’s Test career. He grabbed a career-best 8 for 41 in the first innings of the match but also managed to get 6 for 143 runs in the second innings. He overall grabbed 14 wickets for 184 runs, which were also his career-best numbers for a Test match.
In the last match of the series in Abu Dhabi, he needed 5 more wickets to reach the target of 200 Test wickets which he achieved in the second innings of the match. With this achievement, he became the first bowler to complete this target in just 33 Test matches and he also managed to break the record of R. Ashwin by reaching this milestone in just 4 years and 42 days.
Who knew that series against New Zealand, which gave Yasir Shah the career-best bowling figures for an innings, a Test match, and a three-Test matches series, would become a game-changer for him. This can easily be declared as the starting point of the decline in Yasir’s performance in Test cricket. Yasir who took just 33 Test matches to get 200 wickets has grabbed just 33 wickets in the next 13 Test matches.
Yasir Shah, who in his career grabbed 5 wickets in an innings 16 times and 10 wickets in a Test match, is unable to achieve a 5 wicket haul for the last three years. The last time when he grabbed 5 wickets in an innings was the second innings of the Dubai test against New Zealand in November 2018. One can easily divide Yasir Shah’s seven-year career into two parts. In the first four years, he grabbed 200 Test wickets in just 33 matches, and his the next three years he has played 13 Test matches for his 33 wickets.
After a series against New Zealand in 2018, Pakistan has played 21 Test matches. Out of which Yasir Shah has not been able to play 8 matches due to poor form or fitness problems. Even Yasir Shah missed out on Pakistan’s last series against Bangladesh due to a thumb injury. Off-the-field activities also keep Yasir Shah in the news. Recently in an FIR Yasir Shah was also nominated as an accomplice, which has been filed on the complaint of a lady.
This whole situation is quite alarming for the Pakistan cricket team which was primarily relying on the spin attack led by Yasir Shah. Now Pakistan has to rely on Nauman Ali and Sajid Khan who are comparatively inexperienced in international cricket. Nauman Ali has grabbed 19 wickets in his 7 Test match appearances and Sajid Khan has sent 18 players to the pavilion in 4 Test matches he played for Pakistan. This performance can be considered, somewhat, satisfactory but still, there are consistency issues.
Thanks to the fast bowling attack of Hassan Ali and Shaheen Shah Afridi who have performed exceptionally well in recent matches, which helped overcome the damage caused by Yasir’s absence. If Yasir Shah focuses again on his cricket and fitness this bowling attack would have been more lethal for any side in the world. Now Pakistan has to host Australia on its local pitches which are naturally supportive for spin bowling. One good series will give Yasir Shah a boost which he has been waiting for the last three years. The PCB must provide Yasir with technical and moral assistance in this crucial situation. A short coaching session with Shane Warne can help him overcome his shortcomings. There is still much cricket left in Yasir Shah and careful handling by the PCB can help tap this tested resource.
–Courtesy The Trust International Magazine