England vs Pakistan 2020, 2nd Test: The clock is ticking for Asad Shafiq

Aug 16, 11:22:54 AM

Photo Courtesy: Twitter
Photo Courtesy: Twitter

Batsmen are more or less finicky about their trigger movements. The dichotomy remains palpable, though. Some are unfussed operators for whom the thought of aligning their front foot shuffle, rarely crosses the mind, preferably after a series of dismal ducks. Few are borderline maniacs, say, Steve Smith, who feel as if the shoulder killing throwdowns is not flesh and blood but a robotic limb. And they wear the living daylights out of it until they get their back-and-across manoeuvre picture-perfect.

The crux of the matter is that regardless of which spectrum do the batsmen belong to, the discrepancies prevalent in the trigger mechanisms often leave them with no choice but to saunter back to the drawing board. There begins the hard grind. The chronological exploration of faults and troubleshooting; the bedfellows of an international recruit in the day and age of mischievous video analytics. It's in these enveloped confines of the practice net, away from the camera's glare, where batsmen devoid of runs and confidence spend hours fixing the chinks in their armour. And with mediocre returns of 7, 29, and 5 in his previous three innings, Asad Shafiq has been nothing but a frequent visitor of late.

After all, the road to redemption diverges into two paths for batsmen struggling to eradicate a technical glitch. While experienced heads often suggest not fretting too much about the problem allows the body to rediscover its mojo naturally, the workhorses swear by the go-getter attitude, hitting as many balls as possible to iron out the flaw. If anything, Pakistan's number five seems to have chosen the latter.

The first net session aimed at implementing corrective measures transpired after the opening day's play of the first Test against England. That Shafiq wasn't able to channelise his weight onto the front foot after the initial forward press was quite evident to the naked eye as he perished fending an away-slanter to second slip. And locating the error definitely wouldn't have been rocket science for an engine room comprising of batting gurus of the ilk of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younus Khan.

During the forty-minute window allotted for player training after stumps, the right-hander was made to face an assortment of length deliveries from various bowlers- Naseem Shah, Shaheen Afridi, net bowlers, and a couple of sidearms, with the head coach providing expertise from the umpire's vantage point. The focus was on getting Shafiq to employ a compact trigger movement in which the backfoot leads the way followed by a short and snappy forward press, with the toe ideally pointing towards mid-off as he readies himself for contact. 

Directives were hurled from the non-striker's end whenever he failed to commit to an overpitched loosener or hung back to one that should have been dealt with off the front foot.

His 29 in the second innings did kindle the glimmer of hope. Shafiq's positioning around the crease was appreciably better but the fluency of the trigger movement wasn't yet up to the mark. His neat drives and handsy flicks were sweet rewards for the yards put behind the scenes, yet there was still plenty of room for improvement. It didn't help his cause either that he fell prey to some terrible miscommunication when it looked like he was gradually finding his bearings.

There are myriad ways to vent your frustration at being sold down the river. You could fling your bat into the dressing room television ala Ricky Ponting. Or worst, you could pluck a leaf out of firebrand Mitchell Marsh's book, bang concrete with your muscular fists and sit at home for the next three months. Such vehement outbursts of emotion weren't expected from someone of Shafiq's mental sagacity, but so was not that he'd pack his bags forthwith and disappear into the indoor training facility with the senior duo for company.

Despite leaving no stone unturned in the endeavour to smoothen his trigger routine, the indecisiveness of it spelt doom for him yet again during the first day at Rose Bowl. Excruciatingly slow off the blocks, his feet planted to the crease as if glued with adhesive, he nibbled at Stuart Broad's outswinger to hand Dom Sibley at fourth slip an opportunity to compensate for his drop early in the morning.

Visibly gutted, Shafiq would go on to have another stint in the nets post Lunch while the lower order negated England's wrath on a track unfurling more tricks than dove magicians. 

Success is stumbling from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm, they say. Applies well to Shafiq. But mind you, he doesn't have all the time in the world to prove his credentials. He's 34, and there's only one way that number is being pulled as young talent waits in the wings. Much to his chagrin, Pakistan's shambolic collapses are adding fuel to the fire.

The scrutiny might even seem unfair to some for a man who averages a tick below 40 and has 74 Tests under his belt. But that is the position Shafiq finds himself in. It's hardcore cricket. Perform or perish. The clock is ticking.

  • Asad Shafiq
  • PAK vs ENG 2020

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