AnalysisThe Story of Shan Masood: The One-Day Player

The Story of Shan Masood: The One-Day Player

The left-hander has one of the highest List A averages ever, but he isn’t in the Pakistan ODI team. Why?

In 2018, Shan Masood went on a podcast where he remarked that his List A average is the best of all time, better than the likes of Virat Kohli. This, as usual, was taken out of context prompting great outrage of how he was “comparing” himself to a great like Kohli.

Since then, Shan has fallen marginally behind Kohli, with an average of now only 57.46. He finds himself in a similar position to the new No.1 of the list – Sam Hain, who also has been frozen out of the England ODI side and couldn’t earn a call up even when England fielded their third-string team vs. Pakistan in July.

Highest Averages of All Time in List A Cricket

Player Mat Runs Ave SR 100s 50s
Sam Hain 58 2810 59.78 86.5 10 15
Michael Bevan 427 15103 57.86 13 116
Virat Kohli 288 13611 57.67 93.2 47 70
Shan Masood 97 4540 57.46 82.7 14 26
Khurram Manzoor 156 7629 54.88 85.8 27 37
Babar Azam 147 6901 54.76 86.7 24 35
Cheteshwar Pujara 103 4445 54.20 11 29
AB de Villiers 263 11123 53.47 29 63
James Taylor 136 5365 53.11 84.1 15 30
Saleem Elahi 141 6277 52.30 18 37

Tepid Start

You wouldn’t expect a batsman with an average of 57 odd to have a poor start to his career, but that was the case with Shan. From his One Day debut in 2008 till 2016, Shan was a mediocre one-day player who had not struck a single century, a damning stat for someone who opens the batting.

Inns Runs HS Ave 100s 50s
Until 2016 29 740 76 30.8 0 5

In the National One Day Cup 2016, a different Shan showed up. He finished 6th on the highest run-getters list with 396 runs, including his maiden hundred. He followed that up with a decent showing in the Pakistan Cup, averaging 40 odd. Shan would return in 2017 to once again rack up the runs and push for inclusion into the national side.

The Sri Lanka Series (2017)

Pakistan had just won the Champions Trophy, but the management wanted to groom a successor for Azhar Ali, who they felt may not make it till the 2019 World Cup. And thus, the selectors may have taken a look at the One Day run charts for the past two years. From there, they found their first-choice opener for the Sri Lanka series – Ahmed Shehzad.

Name Matches Runs Average Strike Rate 100s 50s
Ahmed Shehzad 19 1311 81.9 102.0 5 7
Shan Masood 24 1225 55.7 75.6 4 7
Kamran Akmal 24 1201 50.0 88.6 4 7
Salman Butt 24 1029 46.8 68.3 1 8
Akbar-ur-Rehman 24 929 51.6 90.3 2 7
Usman Salahuddin 16 890 68.5 83.1 2 5
Fakhar Zaman 17 862 57.5 94.5 2 7
Khurram Manzoor 14 858 71.5 97.9 5 3
Iftikhar Ahmed 18 791 52.7 84.1 1 5
Awais Zia 21 784 37.3 101.3 1 5
Imam-ul-Haq 22 764 34.7 73.0 1 5

Shan may have finished as the second-highest run-scorer in the last two years then, but he had the second-worst strike rate of anyone in the top ten. His run-scoring appetite was impressive, and he had improved his conversion rate, but the speed with which he got those runs may have been a concern.

All Openers Shan
Tournament Avg SR Avg SR Avg+ SR+
Nat OD 15/16 30.7 79.6 66.0 75.9 115% -5%
Pak Cup 16 46.5 91.4 40.8 75.1 -12% -18%
OD Cup Dept 16/17 32.1 75.1 70.0 73.8 118% -2%
OD Cup Reg 16/17 30.7 83.4 41.0 78.8 34% -6%

However, the person who would be picked over him (Imam-ul-Haq) possessed a Domestic One Day SR lesser than Shan. But Imam was five years younger than Shan, and there might have been an opinion that while this may be the best Shan can do, Imam could improve. He certainly possessed an enviable U19 record and had shown improvement in his final year there. Imam also had an excellent Asia Cup with the Emerging side, where he played three matches and amassed 238 runs at an average of 119.

In an ideal world, selectors would not be influenced by performances outside One Day cricket for selections pertaining to ODIs, but Pakistan cricket is far from ideal. Imam had also finished as the 3rd highest run-scorer in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2016/17.

Ultimately, it came down to a 28-year-old with strike rate issues or a prodigy who was beginning to find his feet and who may benefit from a series vs. a weak Sri Lanka side. Azhar Ali was still the incumbent; the next in line was Shehzad. Imam was thought to be essentially along for the ride.

Instead, Shan continued in his role as a Test opener, a bit surprising since his Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2016/17 was middling with 436 runs at an average of 36.3. It smells like a good old-fashioned case of format mixing where Pakistan’s selectors pulled off their best Akshay Kumar impression and placed Imam in the ODI side and Shan in the Test.

It is a credit to Imam that he grabbed his opportunity with both hands when Shehzad’s poor form resulted in him being dropped. A series of low scores could’ve opened the door for Shan. But alas, it was not to be; Imam sealed the backup opener spot and was ready to take over when Azhar Ali retired.

An Incredible 2018

In 2018, Shan seemingly recognized that his strike rate may have been the reason he was passed up for ODI selection, and he came back with a vengeance. Not only did he average over 100 in both of the ODI competitions that year, but he also struck at well over the average for openers in each competition. He had taken his game to the next level and was once again knocking on the selectors’ door.

All Openers Shan
Tournament Avg SR Avg SR Avg+ SR+
OD Cup Dept 17/18 40.0 80.6 158.0 86.7 295.0 7.6
OD Cup Reg 17/18 46.1 86.9 109.3 100.5 137.1 15.7

Unfortunately for him, both opener slots in the national ODI team were now filled. He received a call up for the Asia Cup as a backup opener, but understandably the management didn’t lose faith in openers who both averaged 50+. For their next two series, the focus shifted to the middle order and bowling, so Pakistan didn’t feel the need to include a backup opener, with Mohammad Hafeez assumed as the emergency option in case of injury.

However, Shan did receive a Pakistan A call-up and was lucky that this was one of the few times that Pakistan A had quality opposition over a sustained period. They would first play the England Lions and then New Zealand A in the UAE.

In his first game vs. the England Lions, Shan struck 161. He would also deliver impressive First Class performances, which resulted in his comeback to the Test team.

An Opportunity Lost

Although Shan struck an incredible 161, he couldn’t manage those many runs in total for his other seven matches with the A side. Nevertheless, the selectors accepted the 161 as enough proof that he was one of the best ODI openers in the country, and he had a golden opportunity vs. Australia in 2019 when most of Pakistan’s ODI squad was rested post-PSL. He, however, was unable to give a worthy account of himself and was once again pipped by a man scoring a century on ODI debut – Abid Ali.

Abid Ali had been, like Shan, a consistent performer in Domestic One Days. In the same match as Shan’s 161, he struck 140. He would then have a similar dip to Shan for the rest of the games. But when the opportunity presented itself, he grabbed it and wrote his name down as Pakistan’s backup opener. Ultimately, he would find that name erased from the World Cup squad, but for the series after that, he was seen as Pakistan’s 3rd opener.

One Day Matches vs. International Teams

Batsman Matches Runs Average Strike Rate 100s
Abid Ali 11 464 42.2 86.1 2
Shan Masood 13 424 32.6 82.8 1

Recent Selections

In the 2020 Zimbabwe Series, Abdullah Shafiq, much like Imam before him, was brought into the squad to gain a bit of experience of how it feels to be near the national team. As the fourth opener of the squad, the likelihood of him playing was low and he didn’t turn out for a single ODI.

Moving forward, in the 2021 South Africa series, Abid was unceremoniously dumped out of the side, and Abdullah was essentially promoted to the position of the backup opener. That has continued into the England series and now the New Zealand series that is about to get underway. The selectors seem to rate Abdullah very highly and perhaps feel that since the opening combo is set in stone, grooming a young replacement seems the right way forward.


This now marks the second time Shan has been passed up for a younger player who the people in charge feel has a higher ceiling. It seems that in Pakistan cricket, you are either a prodigy and you may play too early, or you are someone who understands his game too late and then spend the rest of your career being passed up for people who are not currently better than you but might be in the future.

Shan’s story is an indictment of a system that doesn’t believe in mid-career player improvement. To some, he will always remain the fidgety Test player with no power game that he was before 2016. And that image will come back to haunt him whenever he has a short stretch of bad games. Even if he averages over 100 at an SR over 90 for three years or scores runs in South Africa, Australia, and England.

The author

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