Saud Shakeel – When the Karachiite Karachi-ed
Saud Shakeel’s excellence at Galle says he is a Karachiite through and through.
They say where you grow up matters. And it certainly did when Saud Shakeel, only five Tests old at the start of this Test, showed up in Galle to a terrorized Pakistan at the crease. Normally a batter who debuted some seven months ago, arriving at the crease when his team is 67-3, who then watches his captain – the number 3 ranked ICC Test batsman – return to the pavilion before he even has a chance to open his account and watches the team go to 101-5 while being at the center of it all will be a nervous wreck, acting reluctant and overly cautious. And he is cautious, but not the nervous kind of cautious, the I-don’t-care-how-bad-the-situation-is-I-will-stand-and-I-will-stand-through-it-all kind of cautious. The cautious that is smart. The cautious that knows when to change gears. The cautious that can score at the pace the situation demands and more. The cautious that screams Karachi. In the middle of a crisis, aware and vigilant but never crumbling.
Karachi has always had it tough. Well, if not always, as long as one can remember. Or, at least, as long as Saud has lived here. Despite being the biggest city and the financial capital of the country, Karachi has always had more than its fair share of troubles. Being Karachi is not easy. Yet the city remains. Surviving in Karachi is not easy. Yet the Karachiites live. Having been hit by calamities of all kinds and being left to face them alone, the city still stands tall, displaying exceptional resilience and toughness, quickly adapting to and overcoming them all.
While the city that reflects in his game gets little to no help from those it reaches out to, Saud had it different. His teammates stood with him from time to time as long as they could. Salman Ali Agha joined Saud in the middle when Sarfaraz departed, and the duo together went on a revenge mission and rattled the hosts scoring at a rate of nearly 5 and putting up a proud 177-run stand for the sixth wicket. The two looked at ease throughout. Saud used his feet frequently, rotated the strike, and found the gaps. Salman, on the other hand, put on a show of his own deftness in both the rotation of the strike and finding the rope. When Agha finally lost his wicket to a stumping, Saud stood still in defiance, determined to fight till the end, putting up partnerships with each one of the last four wickets, including a remarkable 94-run partnership with Naseem Shah, who is equally adept at performing both the lead role and a supporting character.
It was during the last-wicket partnership when Shakeel hit 200, the first by a Pakistani batter in Sri Lanka. The otherwise quiet man roared then as the dressing room cheered him on. Pakistan eventually finished their innings with a lead of 149, with Saud staying not out on 208. The man from Karachi refused to let his defenses fall. Saud’s average jumped to a whopping 98.5 at the end of Pakistan’s first innings to bear witness to the brilliance of his game-changing innings.
The Test ended with Pakistan winning by 4 wickets, with Saud, once again, performing another rescue effort in the second innings when Pakistan’s boat rocked a little while chasing a mere target of 131. While Imam remained the highest scorer of that innings, Saud came second with his key contribution of 30 off 38 balls that helped others comfortably close off the chase.
When Pakistan seemed down, and the danger of another Test loss loomed over their heads, Saud’s grit pulled his team out of a ditch, and his brave strength dragged them across the haunted tracks of Galle to finally feel a feeling they hadn’t felt in a year. His resilience in the face of adversity speaks well of his origins. The Karachiite in Saud backed himself to survive when perishing would have been easier. The Karachiite in Saud took the challenge head-on.
When Saud received his Player of the Match award in the ceremony later, he mentioned his home city and credited it for his heroics. “I am from Karachi, and I am used to playing spinners a lot,” he said. It loosely translates to, “I am from Karachi, and I am used to having it tough.”
The opinions expressed solely belong to the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Grassroots Cricket.