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Explained: Why Shaheen Afridi promoting himself to No.6 makes sense for Lahore Qalandars

Lahore Qalandars captain Shaheen Shah Afridi celebrates his half-century after his promotion to No.6 during today's PSL game
Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner
@Ben_Wisden 4 minute read

Shaheen Shah Afridi: left-arm rockets, improving captain… No.6 batter?

The Lahore Qalandars captain has promoted himself up into the middle order twice in the ongoing Pakistan Super League (PSL) season, making a run-a-ball 16 against Quetta Gladiators and a maiden half-century in any format of professional cricket today (March 7, 2023), against Peshawar Zalmi.

On the face of it, it’s a puzzling move. Even after his career-best today, Shaheen averages 9.44 with the bat at a strike rate of 109.44, and is pushing himself above several established overseas stars in Sikandar Raza, David Wiese and Rashid Khan. But there is some logic behind it.


Both Shaheen’s promotions have come after significant collapses, with Lahore Qalandars losing four wickets inside the powerplay each time. Raza, Wiese are all players who thrive at the backend of an innings. Raza strikes at 186 in the death overs compared to 126 in the middle, Wiese at 176 compared to 117, and Rashid 159 to 109. Of course, almost all players score faster towards the end of an innings, where less value is placed on wicket preservation, but with these three the difference is stark. It seems that, faced with an early collapse, Lahore Qalandars would rather save their big hitters for the end, and push up a less valuable player for the middle overs.

Looking at Shaheen’s returns – he was one off nine at one point today, and made 16 off 16 in his first promotion – it would be easy to conclude he was aiming for wicket preservation. But from watching the innings it is clear he is determined to keep swinging, with dot balls coming about because of missed big shots rather than blocking and leaving. And Shaheen showed with his acceleration, racing from one to 52 in 25 balls, that once in, he can score quickly.

It’s not a plan that will work every time, and when Shaheen struggled early on today, it seemed as if, chasing 208, a huge defeat could be on the cards. But whenever a team loses four wickets early on, defeat will be hard to prevent. A hit-rate of one out of two, as it currently is, is decent.

Shaheen’s first promotion allowed Raza to stage a stunning rescue act, smashing 71 off 34 to take his side to a defendable score of 148. And even in the second, Lahore Qalandars kept themselves just about in the hunt, needing 46 off the last 13 balls before Raza’s dismissal – a long shot, but an equation a team would probably accept when 24-4 at the end of the powerplay chasing 208.

Lahore Qalandars have had an excellent season, topping the table as it stands with six wins and two defeats, and Shaheen as captain has had a big part to play – promoting himself demonstrates how he is happy to take risks and assume responsibility. Perhaps the move could even flourish outside of the PSL. Pakistan’s middle order in T20Is has struggled in recent times, with their hopes resting extensively on the opening pair of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan batting big and batting long. Could a Shaheen promotion, after a few early wickets, be the answer?

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