Freak injuries in sports are nothing new, but their impact on the player’s body remains unknown to people who are just watching as mere spectators. We have heard about stress fractures, twisting ankles and torn hamstrings, but what we never hear about is how hard it is for players to return from such testing times.
On November 11, 2014, during a Test against New Zealand, Pakistani opener Ahmed Shehzad was was hit on the neck on a slow Dubai pitch. The incident left Shehzad on the floor, and later it was discovered that he suffered a skull fracture, which ruled him out for a considerable amount of time.
Till that day, Shehzad scored 718 runs in the longest format of the game with an staggering average of nearly 48, whereas in 50-over format, he scored nearly 1,711 runs with average touching 35, considered more than decent for any Pakistan opener in the recent past.
At first, not many realized what exactly the magnitude of his injury was, but just 16 days later, the significance of the ball-hitting incident became evident when Australia’s Phillip Hughes died after being hit on the neck in a first-class game. Then, Pakistan head coach Waqar Younis called Shehzad back in the team for the 2015 World Cup. But after the team’s dismal performance, the coach claimed that Shehzad was not the same player after being hit by the ball.
But was the coach correct? Did Ahmed Shehzad lose any of his edge after returning from the injury? To examine how that incident really affected Shehzad’s ability as the top order batsman, we decided to dig deep into his stats, and there we found some really interesting numbers.
Shehzad’s average in all three formats decreased after being hit by the ball – most significantly in Test cricket, where it went down from 47.86 in eight matches to just 29.33 in next five.
His struggles in the longest format of the game are also evident by the fact that he managed to score just two half centuries in 10 innings since his return.
In 50-over cricket, before the incident, Shehzad scored five centuries in 51 matches, whereas afterwards he scored just one in 30. While there was a small increase in his ODI strike-rate, it fell from 119 to 111 in T20Is, an area which was already a problem for him.
It is evident that Shehzad’s career has gone backward since November 11, 2014, but to connect his decline with the ball-hitting incident seems a step in the wrong direction, and here are the two reasons to back this claim.
One – his decline in Tests is down to the fact that after his return, Shehzad played all of his matches away from Pakistan’s makeshift home – UAE. Even before getting injured, Shehzad’s record in whites while playing away from home was pretty poor to say the least with just 86 runs in four innings at an average of just 21.5, which shows that injury cannot be blamed for his poor return to five-day cricket.
Two – in ODIs, his decline becomes more evident as now he is part of the team progressing in the right direction, unlike before where he was playing with players like Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali.
All all those players did not possess good record in limited overs cricket, and that’s why for so long, his poor performance went unnoticed.
On the contrary, now he is playing in a team which look far more equipped in the 50-over format than it was three years back, and at times, he looks like the most vulnerable part of the lot.
With new players knocking the national team’s door – more now than ever before after the arrival of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), Shehzad’s time to rescue his international career is slowly but surely running out.