Pakistan legspinner Shadab Khan to miss England series
Shadab Khan is set to miss the entirety of Pakistan's upcoming limited over series in England, after he was diagnosed with a virus which will 'require treatment and rest for, at least, four weeks'. The exact nature of the virus is unclear.
The news is a blow to Pakistan, not necessarily because of Shadab's absence for the series against England itself, but because he is the only specialist spinner in their 15 man World Cup squad and will miss out on a vital period of preparation for the game's biggest tournament. The series consists of five ODIs as well as a solitary T20, and, running from May 5 through to May 19, offers Pakistan an ideal chance to fine tune for the World Cup, which begins on May 30, with their first game coming on May 31 against the West Indies.
At just 20 years of age, Shadab has already established himself as a key member of the Pakistan side going forward, particularly in the shorter forms of the game. A capable batsman as well as talented leg spin bowler, he has already accumulated some impressive numbers in his 34 ODIs, 32 T20Is and five Test matches.
In the 50-over format, he currently boasts the impressive statistic – one which many talented all-rounders are never able to accomplish – of having a bowling average lower than his batting average. He has snared 47 wickets at just 27.74, while conceding 4.80 runs per over, while with the bat he averages 29.40 – though his strike rate of 65.04 could certainly do with some work (it's 143.75 in his 11 T20I innings, so clearly the ability is there).
Shadab has played just four ODIs in the United Kingdom, where the World Cup will be held, and those instances occurred just a handful of games into his international career, back in 2017. On that occasion, he played two games against India and one each against England and South Africa, conceding 5.55 runs an over and managing just four wickets. His only other international experience there came in the form of two Test matches – first at Lords and then at Leeds – in 2018, and in three innings he managed just three wickets at an average of 49.
He did, however, manage a couple of fifties with the bat in these two Tests – a 52 in the first innings at Lords followed by a 56 in the first innings at Leeds. In the ODI matches he played there, he was only required to bat on a solitary occasion.
Conditions in the United Kingdom obviously differ significantly from those in Pakistan, and given Shadab's lack of experience playing there this lead up series would have been hugely beneficial for him in developing an understanding of the conditions. Pakistan won't be particularly bothered by how his loss affects them in the series against England itself – the result of that is secondary to the preparation it provides for the World Cup. The interruption to Shadab's lead-in to that event, however, particularly given his lack of experience playing in conditions such as those found in the United Kingdom and his presence as the solitary specialist spinner in their World Cup squad, is perhaps slightly more cause for concern.
The nature of the virus has not been explicitly mentioned by PCB, meaning even his availability for the beginning of the World Cup can't be guaranteed. The timeline of 'at least four weeks', however, appears to have him ready just prior to Pakistan's first game. Regardless, the preparation is far from ideal, and Pakistan will be desperate to see him bounce back strongly, for the role he will play for them in the World Cup will be pivotal.