BY Kaukab Azhar
Yesterday’s blistering knock of 81 runs from 29 balls by Sohaib Maqsood helped Southern Punjab reach the National T20 Cup semi-finals despite remaining low ranked team in the tournament throughout. This was probably one of the best innings so far in Sohaib’s career and it really meant for the 33-years-old cricketer.
Let’s get back to 2013 when Maqsood entered the international cricket arena with T20I debut against Zimbabwe at Harare. Unfortunately, the lad’s career lasted only three years but he surely possessed strong power-hitting skills. Sohaib scored consecutive fifties in his first two ODIs against a formidable South African bowling line-up but since then it’s been all downhill for him.
Where did it go all wrong for Maqsood? When he came on to the international scene everyone compared him with the great Inzamam-ul-Haq due to the similarities in the technique of the two batsmen and also roots from the same city, Multan. An analysis of his ODI career suggests that there are three main reasons for his exclusion from the side: shuffling batting position, T20I performances, and fitness.
Interestingly, he batted at the one-down position in only the first two ODI matches (in which he scored two fifties) and never got a chance to bat at that position again. In the next 23 innings, he managed to score just three more fifties. In the 2015 ODI World Cup, he batted at four different positions in six games.
Mickey Arthur took over the coaching role in 2016 and decided to emphasize fitness culture in the side. Maqsood wasn’t deemed as fit as others in the side. Also, he wasn’t too mobile in the field either. He got enough chances in the T20Is as well but never managed to create any sort of impression and lost his place after getting an extended run.
His T20I career average of 13 in 118 innings does not do justice to his talent. The pressure of poor performances in the T20Is piled up the pressure on selectors to drop him. It will be fair to say that Maqsood only has himself to blame for missing out on international cricket.
Why is he back in contention? Maqsood is the leading run-scorer in the National T20 Cup, scoring 380 runs at an average of 38 and a strike rate of 175.11. He looks fitter and seems to have sorted out some of the technical issues in his batting. Yesterday’s inning has made his case stronger as the national team direly needs someone in the middle and lower the order to accelerate the scores, especially in T20Is.
Maqsood has been striking the ball well and a strong finish to the tournament can open the gates for him. With all the young talent emerging with the likes of Haider Ali and Abdullah Shafiq; there’s a slot available for a power-hitter in the batting line-up. Is it too little too late?