Mohammad Shahzad: 'As long as I am alive, I want to play for Afghanistan'

Wicketkeeper batsman – playing in Abu Dhabi T10 – hopes to come back into the Afghan team following his suspension

Afghan batsman Mohammad Shahzad plays a shot during the one day international (ODI) Asia Cup cricket match between Afghanistan and India at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on September 25, 2018. / AFP / Ishara S. KODIKARA
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Wicketkeeper batsman Mohammad Shahzad is currently in the UAE battling it out in the Abu Dhabi T10 but his sights are set on returning to the Afghanistan fold.

Shahzad was sent home early from the World Cup in England this summer due to fitness issues but later claimed to be fully fit and stated he had been treated unfairly. Then in August, he was suspended for a year for breaching the Afghanistan Cricket Board’s code of conduct by playing and training in Pakistan.

After the World Cup incident, Shahzad had threatened to quit the sport. But now he is back on the cricket field, turning out for Deccan Gladiators in the Abu Dhabi T10. For the burly keeper, getting back into the Afghanistan team remains his biggest motivation.

“As long as I am alive, I want to play for Afghanistan, Inshallah,” Shahzad said. “My main focus is to make a comeback for Afghanistan. It’s because Afghanistan has a team that I am here. If not, who knows where I would have been.”

But the reality is that Shahzad, 32, will have to wait until next year to even think of an international comeback. Becoming a journeyman player in domestic leagues across the globe is a possibility, he acknowledges.

“After I retire from [international] cricket and feel I can’t play regularly, only then will I play in a few leagues. If I can’t make a comeback, then I will look at T10 and T20 leagues.”

The hard-hitting opening batsman played arguably the most significant innings in the short history of T10 cricket, smashing 74 off 16 balls to help his previous team Rajputs chase down 95 in just four overs.

Shahzad believes the game's shortest format will continue to gain traction, and could even be added to the Olympics programme.

“T10 is an exciting format for me as you don’t have a lot of time. You have to take decisions quickly," Shahzad, a veteran of 151 international matches across all three formats, said.

"That also helps you in formats like T20. Many countries will start to move towards T10. T20 will always be there. In fact, I feel even the Olympics could have T10 as the Games don’t have a lot of time."

It has been suggested that fielding a full batting line-up in a 10-over innings is not the best approach to facing a maximum 60 balls. Shahzad, however, does not subscribe to that train of thought.

“Just because it’s a 10-over format does not mean we need to reduce the number of batsmen. Because it’s a short format, the message we get from captain and coach is to start hitting from the first ball itself. So you tend to lose more wickets. If a team is going after the bowling, then the entire XI can get a chance to bat."