Are all big-striking batsmen devoid of footwork? Are all hitters, accustomed to sending the ball into the stands with glee, always struggling against spinners?
Perhaps for some reason, we have stuck to this self-constructed image about big-striking batsmen that runs on a bias. Even as not all may necessarily be mirroring this perception. That big-hitters of the cricket ball are sufficiently devoid of footwork may no longer hold true for a modern-day cricketer. This is, after all, a breed whose challenges isn’t always scoring in a run chase alone but also involve constantly adjusting to varying formats of the game.
Fakhar Zaman: A white-ball specialist
And perhaps for Pakistan, none do it better than Fakhar Zaman in recent times. What would you call Fakhar Zaman who at 28, hasn’t played a single Test and may never end up playing one? True to the changing contours of cricket, one that is evidencing a new trend of competitors opting to focus on a particular format instead of making themselves available for all rigors, Fakhar Zaman is a product of cricket in a changing tide.
His contemporaries, players like Alex Hales, Adil Rashid have committed themselves to playing only white-ball cricket.
But Zaman is rising at a time where Cricket is engaged in crafting a new imagery for itself, one that is walking a tightrope between the rising juggernaut of T20s on one hand and resuscitation of Test cricket on the other. The recent instance of New Zealand playing a full-length series- encompassing Tests, ODIs, and T20- against West Indies on the one hand and later, a T20 tri-series with Australia and England are instances of a side involved in both- stand-alone series as well as multi-format battles.
Increasingly, we are finding talents recalibrating their skills basis a particular format.
Implicit to Pakistan’s success today
And in this important second wind for Pakistan- one wherein one of Cricket’s most historic and charismatic bastions- is involved in reforging its ties and commitment with international cricket, few things could offer a bigger reward other than having Fakhar Zaman offer his services to the contemporary game. Even if it means, featuring predominantly across ODIs and T20s- vital constructs that measure a batsman’s efficacy.
He doesn’t always explode from ball one akin to a Gayle. You may not find Zaman demonstrate a nimble switch-hit, the kinds we see from an AB or McCullum. But Fakhar Zaman is a clean striker of the ball who’s adept at stitching useful partnerships and can handle himself against spin.
Most people, of late, may remember Zaman’s heroics in the just concluded 3-match T20 series against the West Indies but in comparison to two of his finest limited overs knocks in recent times, his outing against the West Indies, productive that it was is a dainty work of art. In Pakistan’s first ODI against New Zealand at Wellington, Fakhar Zaman’s valiant 82 involved some breathtaking strokes. On two back-to-back occasions, he moved on the back foot and punched Santner over mid-on for blazing sixes. There was power. There was copious footwork and in a pleasant sight for a batsman, his back was straight not slouched.
Fakhar Zaman= Colin Munro + Jason Roy
Zaman combines the power of a Colin Munro to the virtuosity of a Jason Roy. You find the shades of brute striking in his game particularly when he mirrors the English batsman striking those effervescently timed strokes toward square of the wicket.
And he does it cleanly without the risk associated with pinch hitters in the game like Andre Russell and Sunil Narine. This cushions Pakistan with a sense of safety that their top order rests with focus and not conformity to living dangerously.
The knock that introduced the world to Fakhar Zaman
An inning that shall, for several decades, in the coming times be remembered for marrying caution with aggression seamlessly, left-handed Zaman produced a belter in his 114 against Virat Kohli’s India in the Champion’s Trophy final. Hundreds by opening batsmen in a major ICC event don’t come better than that.
He was impulsive in his vicious on-drives against Kumar and elegant in taking Ashwin out of the attack through his strokes square of the wicket.
Every stroke was birthed out of a watchfulness to fight for Pakistan’s cause. Every ounce of sweat in the chaotic chill of England fighting for the right to battle for Pakistan cricket.
Fans of literature might be reminded of Albert Camus’ “The Outsider” for that is what Zaman pretty much was in exploding with a thunderous hundred. It came at a time where he might have been fresh fodder for a troll-worthy material for that is what riled up fans do to Pakistan in an age of fiefdom where worshipping Indian cricketers is the order of the day.
A promise for the future
That said, with just 13 ODIs and 15 T20s, Zaman has only just begun. A lot many harder battles lay in the future, but one where he seemingly belongs in the current scheme of things for his side.
But in cementing his place as a useful top order find, Zaman has introduced new-found faith for a seemingly fresh batting culture.
One that looks steady and devoted in its safeguarding of a sport that for Pakistan is, surely, a reason of joy.