AnalysisShan Masood: From Wisden’s Test Team of the Year in 2020 to out of the Pakistan Team in 2021

Shan Masood: From Wisden’s Test Team of the Year in 2020 to out of the Pakistan Team in 2021

Shan Masood impressed after his comeback in 2018. Was it harsh to discard him after a rough tour of New Zealand?

Journey in His Early Years + Inconsistent Opportunities

Shan Masood debuted against South Africa in 2013, where he scored 75 in his first innings. However, he didn’t get consistent chances after that. After his debut series against South Africa, the left-hander didn’t get the chance to play in the next two series despite being in the squad. Even when he got another opportunity, it was because the first-choice opener, Ahmed Shehzad, got injured.

After scoring just 69 runs in his next two Tests in 2014, Shan was dropped for the tour of Bangladesh, and Sami Aslam was inducted into the squad. Sami had scored 397 runs in 7 matches at an average of 33 in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy prior to selection.

Meanwhile, Shan was part of Pakistan A during their tour of Sri Lanka, and he scored 220 runs in 2 First Class matches. After a few months, when Pakistan toured Sri Lanka in 2015, he was back in the squad. He got another chance in the third and final Test of the tour. He grabbed this with both hands, forming one half of a record-breaking 4th-innings partnership along with Younis Khan as Pakistan won the series.

The left-hander played two Tests in the next three-match home series against England in October 2015. After some ordinary displays, Shan didn’t play the last match of the series. Then came the famous away series in England in 2016, where he played but was dismissed frequently by James Anderson. Now Anderson does this day in, day out with many other batsmen too. However, for Shan, this brought his Test career to a halt. He did not play Test cricket for another 10-11 months.

Having realized the weaknesses in his game, he approached Jarrod Kimber in search of solutions for his deficiencies. Then, he went back to First Class cricket, scoring more than 400 runs at an average of 36.3 in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2016/17.

Shan then played in the historic 2017 Test series in West Indies as Pakistan recorded their first Test series win in the Caribbean in the final series of the prolific Mis-You pair. Pakistan tried many openers between those 10-11 months like Sami Aslam, Ahmed Shehzad, and even Sharjeel Khan.

Even in that series, Shan only played one Test, scoring 30 runs. In the next series against Sri Lanka, he scored 103 runs in 2 Tests but was promptly dropped from the squad for a year.

To summarize, Shan Masood did not get consistent opportunities to prove himself in his early years. He played just 12 Tests in his first five years of Test cricket.

It was only when he was selected for an away Test series against South Africa in 2018/19 that he made a comeback – and become somewhat of a mainstay in the Test side. He scored an impressive 228 runs at an average of 38 in a low-scoring series and was Pakistan’s highest run-scorer.

Performing Silently Yet at Difficult Times

Conditions in places like South Africa, England, or Australia are very difficult for Asian openers. Shan Masood performed well in those countries after his return to the side.

In South Africa, even though he was the best Pakistani batsman, what was most talked about was Babar Azam’s battle with Dale Steyn. It’s not that it was not worth discussing, but Shan’s performances were overshadowed.

Not many Pakistani openers have made much of an impression in Australia. During the 2019 tour, Shan faced 50+ balls in all the innings and was Pakistan’s only batsman to consistently score runs in the top order.

His output in the three home Tests against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh was great, as expected. Then came the perfect chance for him to rectify his mistakes from the 2016 England tour. He started off superbly in the 2020 England series, scoring a whopping 156 against an attack containing James Anderson, Stuart Broad, and Jofra Archer. However, he struggled on the rest of the tour, failing to make a score of note.

New Zealand Struggles

After a great run – in both home and away series – Shan Masood’s performance in the 2020/21 tour of New Zealand was miserable as he scored three consecutive ducks. However, the pace attack in front of Shan was world-class, while New Zealand has not been a happy hunting ground for visiting top-order batsmen. In the last two years, touring openers are only averaging 22 with the bat in New Zealand.

New Zealand Bowlers in the 2019-21 WTC (Home)

Player Mat Wkts Ave
Kyle Jamieson 6 36 13.3
Tim Southee 6 32 19.3
Trent Boult 6 25 28.2
Neil Wagner 4 15 22.2

Touring Openers in Test Countries (Last Two Years)

Host Country Inns Avg
South Africa 22 40.7
Sri Lanka 22 35.2
West Indies 22 30.1
England 50 27.7
Australia 36 26.4
New Zealand 30 22.4
India 36 17.3

Why Dropping Him Was Harsh

Dropping Shan Masood after this New Zealand tour was perhaps a harsh and reactionary decision. He was Pakistan’s best batsman in one of the last four away Test series and scored a 156 in another away series from those four. In home conditions, he scored two centuries in three Tests. Still, he was dropped after he didn’t perform in front of possibly New Zealand’s best-ever bowling attack probably and on pitches that were greener than outfields in Pakistan’s stadiums.

Batting Averages
Test Openers Shan Masood
2013-17 36.2 23.5
2018- 31.5 35.3
Balls Faced Per Innings
Test Openers Shan Masood
2013-17 70.4 58.4
2018- 63.3 71.4

Shan, after his comeback, could have consistently performed if he was backed. This gives credence to the view that in recent times, Pakistan have been quick to discard players without allowing them to flourish. And opening the batting in Test cricket, that too in one of the best phases ever for fast bowlers, is a tough gig.

Since his comeback, Shan Masood scored 50 or more every four innings. Among openers, that’s better than the likes of David Warner, Dean Elgar, and Dom Sibley in the same period. Rory Burns, Abid Ali, Joe Burns, Aiden Markram, etc., also have similar numbers.

Test Openers Since Shan Masood’s Comeback

Player Inns Runs Ave 50+ Inns/50+
Mayank Agarwal 21 1005 47.9 7 3.0
Lahiru Thirimanne 23 862 37.5 7 3.3
Tom Latham 31 1289 44.4 9 3.4
Dimuth Karunaratne 31 1268 42.3 9 3.4
Rohit Sharma 21 1142 60.1 6 3.5
Aiden Markram 25 784 32.7 7 3.6
Rory Burns 42 1392 33.1 11 3.8
Shan Masood 20 685 34.3 5 4.0
Dean Elgar 34 1104 35.6 7 4.9
Dom Sibley 37 1031 30.3 7 5.3
David Warner 22 948 47.4 4 5.5
Kraigg Brathwaite 34 830 25.2 5 6.8
John Campbell 30 640 23.7 2 15.0

Bottom Line

This is a tough phase for openers, and Shan Masood’s output was relatively decent compared to his contemporaries. Despite his struggles in New Zealand, he could have been given some more Tests at home to regain his form and see whether the low scores were a blip or something more significant.

As it stands, Pakistan have chosen to invest in another opener (Imran Butt) and will have to go through the same process all over again. Hopefully, he gets a long run and can do well for his country. Having good openers is a must for a strong Test side.

The author

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