New Delhi: At over 90kg, Mohammad Shahzad is the complete antithesis of fitness freak Virat Kohli but the Afghan wicketkeeper-batsman says who needs a punishing regimen like the Indian captain when he can hit longer sixes than the world’s No.1 ODI batsman.
Standing at 5’8″, there is seldom a dull moment when the stockily-built Shahzad is around, both on and off the field.
“Dekhiye hum fitness bhi poori karte hain aur khaate bhi poora hain (I work a lot on my fitness but I don’t compromise on food). You want me to have a fitness routine like Kohli, it is not possible, but I am working on it (losing weight),” Shahzad tells PTI in a chat.
The burly 30-year-old cricketer, who has had an eventful international career dating back to 2009, simply plays by his own rules. He knows he is overweight but doesn’t doubt his ability one bit, so much so that he believes that he can hit bigger sixes than Kohli despite not having the exemplary fitness and skill possessed by the Indian captain.
Having played in a refugee camp in Pakistan, the Jalalabad-based player speaks urdu fluently and also passes the hindi test. Remind him of his weight again, Shahzad says not everyone can be like Kohli. “Jitna lamba chakka woh (Kohli) maarte hain, main unse zyadaa maar saktaa hoon, zaroorat kya hain unki tarah itna diet karne ki (I can hit bigger sixes than Kohli so why do I need to follow his diet?),” says the stumper, whose failed attempts at weight-loss had resulted in a one-year doping ban last year.
He spends a lot of time in India and claims to know top Indian cricketers well. He calls M S Dhoni his “closest friend” in the Indian team and also enjoys a good rapport with Suresh Raina and Shikhar Dhawan (he continuously calls India opener ‘Shekhar’).
The cricketer has often faced criticism for being ‘overweight’ but he has hit back at his critics with match-winning performances. He has defied the odds to become Afghanistan’s leading run-getter in T20s and is second only to Mohammad Nabi in ODI runs.
“…My coach (now Phil Simmons) knows that I can keep for 50 overs and bat for 50 overs. I have never seen it (weight) as an issue,” says Shahzad, who is preparing in India with the team for its maiden Test in Bengaluru in June.
He has won his team many games but has also been in the news for wrong seasons. He recently got back into the team after a serving a one-year doping ban. Then he copped a two-game suspension as recent as March during the World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe for causing damage to the ground after being upset at his dismissal.
He returned to deliver a ‘man of the match’ performance in the final of the World Cup qualifier against the West Indies. And then two weeks later, his country’s cricket board, ACB, pulled him up for playing a local tournament in Peshawar without its permission and summoned him back to base.
Australia refuse to tour Pakistan for proposed ODI matches, cite safety concerns
Melbourne: Australia has turned down Pakistan Cricket Board’s request to play two One Day International (ODI) matches in the country, citing security concerns. The PCB had asked Cricket Australia to play two of the five ODIs, which are slated to be played in UAE, in Pakistan, but security concerns made Cricket Australia decide against the same.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, though the proposal has been rejected by the Australian cricket board, it has assured the PCB that they would be open to the idea in the future.
“We want to see international cricket return to Pakistan – the country has a huge passion for it,” said a CA spokesperson.
“However, the safety of our players and support staff is our number one priority and we won’t compromise that. We’ll continue to take advice from a range of government agencies and our own security intelligence and act on this accordingly.”
“At this stage, from an Australia team perspective, we are not contemplating moving our current bilateral-tour arrangements from taking on Pakistan in the UAE, when they host the next series but we do remain open to the idea of playing in the country again. We formally advised the PCB of this position in early January,” he added.
The PCB has in return, declined reports of Australia refusing to tour Pakistan, terming negotiations with Cricket Australia (CA) as currently ‘open and ongoing’.
Australia have not played an away series against Pakistan since 1998 which PCB chairman Ehsan Mani had attempted to address during the former’s recent Test series against the Asian side.
Mani attempted to convince CA chief executive Kevin Roberts to schedule an away series against Pakistan, urging them to follow the lead of Sri Lanka, West Indies and Zimbabwe who had toured the nation since 2017.
Sri Lanka’s return was hailed as a major boost considering the deadly attack on their players in Lahore in 2009.
Australian ODI captain Aaron Finch and Pakistan-born Usman Khawaja have recently expressed a desire to tour Pakistan, in case the security concerns were addressed.
“Obviously, whatever Cricket Australia tells us, that’ll be the big thing. We’ll leave it to the administrators. They’re pretty good at taking care of us and making sure everything’s safe,” said Khawaja.
“I was born in Pakistan so it won’t be too different for me, but it’s still a while away,” he added.
Federer ponders over his ‘miraculous’ career after Murray’s early retirement prospect
London: As the tennis world continued to digest the prospect of Andy Murray`s retirement, an evergreen Roger Federer pondered the “luck” of his longevity on Sunday ahead of his bid for a hat-trick of Australian Open titles.
Murray`s announcement that Melbourne Park could be his last tournament as a professional has made 37-year-old Federer`s career seem all the more miraculous.
Seeking a 21st Grand Slam title and a record seventh in Melbourne, the Swiss will plough into his 20th consecutive Australian Open on Monday with a first round clash against Uzbek Denis Istomin.
While suffering an assortment of niggles common to all hardened professionals, Federer`s only major layoff came in 2016, after he tore his meniscus when running a bath for his twin daughters.
It happened a day after losing the Australian Open semi-final to winner Novak Djokovic, but a year later, he was back raising a fifth trophy at the tournament.
While knowing the limits of his body and full of praise for his team for being able to patch him up repeatedly, Federer admitted that fortune had played a part in his longevity.
“I definitely needed a little bit of luck,” he told reporters at Melbourne Park.
“If you look at how unlucky things were with the incident here a few years ago when I ran the bath, I guess the knee, that part of the body was ready to go.
“Could have happened easily in the match against Novak, but it didn`t, maybe because I was warmed up. I have no idea what happened. I think you also need a little bit of luck.”
The 31-year-old Murray has been far less fortunate, with major hip surgery a year ago doing nothing to stop the pain that has driven the Scot to distraction and the brink of retirement.
Barcelona on lookout for striker after Munir sale: Coach Ernesto
London: Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said that the club were looking to sign a centre forward in the January transfer window after selling Munir El Haddadi to Sevilla.
The league leaders want back-up for Luis Suarez after Sevilla agreed a one-million-euro ($1.15-million) deal to buy Spain international Munir on Friday, leaving the Uruguayan as the only No. 9 at the club, playing between Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele.
“We have to look at it, it`s clear that after Munir`s departure we have a space,” Valverde told reporters on Saturday.
“We`ll see if we can sign a player, although we have to take into account the club`s economic conditions. We will see if we can, if someone comes.”
Asked about Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata, who has been linked to Barcelona in Spanish media reports, Valverde said: “I can only say the same thing — that he`s a great player, that he`s at another team, that we respect that a lot, etcetera.”
Barcelona are currently leading the La Liga with 40 points, with Atletico Madrid trailing them in second place with 35 points.