This post was originally published on All Out Cricket on December 2nd, 2014.

The Kuwaiti-born left-hander Shan Masood is one of Pakistan’s new young starlets, opening in the current Test series against New Zealand and destined for great things. But his journey to the top of Pakistan’s order is anything but conventional, writes Paul Radley of The National


Long gone are the days when an English university education was seen as a valuable entry on the CV of an aspiring Pakistan captain. But for Shan Masood, as with Majid Khan and Imran Khan in times past, it just might help.

When the left-handed opener was granted a Test debut against the world No.1 South Africans in October 2013, it meant he had to skip lectures.

His degree in Management and Sport Sciences at Loughborough University has become more of a distance learning course since he began his rise to the top of Pakistan cricket.

After cramming his A-levels into one year at boarding school at Stamford in Lincolnshire, Masood went to Durham University, and, perhaps not surprisingly, made the first XI.

Since moving his course back down to the Midlands, though, he has faced less British Universities and Colleges Sports bowling attacks and more international ones.

“Ever since I transferred to Loughborough I have been involved with the Pakistan cricket set-up and have not had the opportunity to play cricket over there,” Masood tells us.

There are plenty of reasons the powers-that-be in Pakistan hope the 25-year-old opener establishes himself in the Test side. And not just because it could finally help end the chronic problems they have faced at the top of the order ever since Saeed Anwar vacated the scene.

Studious, articulate, even-tempered, Masood is like a mini Misbah-ul-Haq. He even does a neat line in forward defensives, too, just to embellish the comparison. And for his part, Pakistan’s captain likes what he has seen so far from the student opener.

“He played really well in his debut game playing against big names like Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander,” Misbah said of Masood.

“That was a really testing attack, but he showed a fine temperament in scoring 75 in his first innings. That was really something. You could see he had the type of technique and temperament to perform at international level. He is a really hard-working guy, he is patient; I think he has the abilities you can associate with a good opener.”

And he has a story to tell. Masood was born in Kuwait in 1989, where his father was working in a bank. Months later, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces invaded, and the family were forced to flee back to their native Pakistan.

“It was a blessing that we moved back and I was able to play cricket over there,” he said. “I’ve never been back there but I would like to some day. I’ve never had the chance because of my busy schedule. It is not just managing international cricket, I have also been focusing on my studies as well. Whatever time I do get off from cricket it is all put into my education.”

The pathway from Loughborough to international sport has been a well trodden one – although the route usually leads to a more local destination.

But Masood’s other alma mater has been productive, too: Stamford School also graduated the likes of Mark James, the golfer, and Iwan Thomas, the Olympic sprinter.

He is in the final year of his degree now, and has his books with him while he spends most of his time playing or training with Pakistan’s various sides in the UAE and abroad.

They are a team on the rise in Test cricket, as their monstrous whitewash of Australia showed. Masood was back on the outside looking in back then, as Ahmed Shahzad and Mohammad Hafeez were retained as the openers for that series.

Even though he was not actively part of that success, he says everyone involved with Pakistan cricket was able to share in the buzz it created.

“Before the start of the Test series, everything was at rock bottom,” he said.

“We didn’t do well in the one-dayers, but we had a change of personnel, in terms of a few players coming back in and a few players trying to prove a few things right.

“Judging by the performances, especially by our batsmen – you normally don’t associate those sorts of performances with our batsmen – it is usually our bowling attack we are always dependent upon.

“Them delivering has given us new hope. Australia is No.2 right now, but they have dominated Test cricket for quite a while. Beating that particular side brings our confidence up sky high.”

Masood was recently recalled to open the batting in the drawn series against New Zealand, scoring 69 runs in four innings. While he may still be bedding in as an international opener, he is just the kind of level-headed and studious young player this eternally embattled team needs. And if the Test stuff doesn’t work out, he can always go back to school.

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