Where the heart is: Masood hoping to hammer home the point

Left-hander eager to perform for Pakistan when side tours England next month

Nabeel Hashmi June 03, 2016
Masood has spent a majority of the last decade in England and considers the country a second home. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: For many of Pakistan’s players, the tour of England next month is largely a step into the unknown. But for young Shan Masood, with just seven Tests to his name, it would be like returning to his second home.

The left-handed opening batsman has spent most of the last decade in England, having been enrolled into the Stamford Boarding School in 2008 to complete his A’ levels. His family also moved there in 2009 after his father Mansoor Masood, a member of the Pakistan Cricket Board’s governing board, was appointed head of UBL UK.

Masood enrolled for a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and played with the Durham University from 2010 to 2012. He then took his credits and moved to Loughborough University, where he changed his subject to Sports Sciences. This allowed him to pursue cricket more seriously as Loughborough University allowed him to skip classes and appear only for exams.

“England is certainly a second home for me as I’ve spent a good period of my life there and I understand the culture, conditions and environment that I’ll be facing,” Masood told The Express Tribune.

But the opener admits playing a Test match is an altogether different proposition than university games. “There will still be early nerves for me, just like with all other players who will be playing international cricket in England for the first time,” he said. “Test cricket is different as you can’t compare it to the games I played there in school and university cricket; even with the first-class matches I played for Durham University.”

But Masood has fond memories of playing cricket in England.  “I remember playing against the likes of Durham, Yorkshire and Warwickshire in my early days while playing for Durham University,” he said. “In 2009, I came close to beating Alastair Cook’s record for most runs in school cricket when I made 1,237 runs in 13 matches at an average of 103.”

The achievement earned Masood a trial for Surrey’s second eleven, while he also practiced nets with Sussex’s second string side. “All that experience will surely help me in England,” he said.

Having spent so much time in England, Masood is eager to play international cricket there. “It will be a dream come true for me,” he said. “I remember going to Lord’s to see Umar Amin’s Test debut and now I could be playing there. The very thought gives me goosebumps. We lived near Lord’s and I often used to walk by the historical ground.”

But it has not been an easy ride for Masood. Twice he thought of giving up cricket; first in 2005-06 when he wasn’t being considered by Karachi for first-class cricket and was unable to concentrate on his studies and then in 2008 after he failed in the U19 World Cup and came under heavy criticism.

“In 2008, I gave up cricket and went for boarding school as I couldn’t handle the criticism which came with my poor run,” he said. “People claimed I was only playing because of my father. Unfortunately this continues today as well and it remains my biggest regret because I’ve worked really hard in order to be able to play Test cricket.”

Masood may have left cricket but when it called to him, the left-hander couldn’t help but answer. “A year out of cricket helped me dream again, especially since I saw my batch mates Ahmad Shahzad, Shahzaib Hasan, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Amir and others playing for Pakistan. I said to myself when they can play, why can’t I?”

Masood says he seldom gets any sympathy due to his privileged background, and low personal moments such as being snubbed for the PSL and the recent Pakistan Cup are often ignored.

Last time the 26-year-old played against England in the UAE, he was dismissed all four times by James Anderson —only managing a measly 58 runs in four innings — but Masood says he is up for the challenge.

“It’s daunting to think about playing the England bowling attack in their own conditions but at the same time I’m taking it positively because this is my chance to become a big player,” he said. “If I perform on this tour, people will remember it for years to come and it’s the biggest dream of my career so far.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 3rd, 2016.

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