The heartland of Pakistan is known to produce fierce bowlers. Most have been formidable pacers but in recent years, wily spinners too have made a name for themselves. And while one such bowler - Saeed Ajmal - made a name for himself before being banned for an illegal bowling action, the reinforcements seem to be more than capable of handling international pressure as well. Just ask Yasir Shah. (Also read: Younis Khan Considered Sitting out Tests vs Australia)
Making his Test debut against the mighty Australians, Shah claimed 7 wickets to spin Pakistan to a memorable - and much-needed - triumph in the UAE. While many doubted Pakistan's ability to trouble opponents with spin after Ajmal was banned, Shah showed his senior was not the only ace in Pakistan's sleeves. (Also read: Michael Clarke Praises 'Gentleman' Younis Khan)
At 28, he may not have the exuberance of a youthful cricketer. Shah, however, has 279 first-class wickets and he brought all his domestic experience to the fore on the conducive Dubai pitch. That the Aussies are not comfortable playing spin was evident to him and the legspinner made the most of his long-due chance. While Steve Smith was Shah's first Test victim, the biggest achievement in the Test was dismissing a menacing David Warner who had already scored 133 in the first innings. It was a key strike that - many feel - turned the tide in Pakistan's favour and hinted at the emergence of yet another match-winner in Pakistan's ranks.
Playing the role of a match-winner though is not new to Shah. With career-best figures of 6/20 in first class cricket and an economy rate of 3.02, the bowler from the Khyber Pankhtunkhwa province (formerly known as North West Frontier Province) has been a known face in domestic cricket. Having made his first-class debut in 2002, he has been around for quite some time as well. International opportunity though came only 12 years later. "I have been waiting for the chance for so long," he said at a press conference on Friday. "I think it's still not late as I have plenty of cricket ahead of me. I had obviously played my whole career in domestic wishing to play Test cricket so I am happy with the opportunity that finally came my way."
Having Shane Warne as a role model has futher helped Shah improve his bowling and become more confident. The Aussie legend may not have liked watching his team crumble against spin but Warne did praise the bowler for his energy and variations, during commentary.
Shah, on his part, was grateful. "I actually started bowling legspin watching Shane Warne and he is my idol so I am privileged that he has acknowledged me. My brother who is in UK used to show me his videos and send me the copies so I tried to model my career watching him. I really appreciate the comment by such a legendary player."
While Warne finished his career with an astonishing 708 scalps, and compatriot Ajmal claimed 178 wickets before being suspended, Shah is in no rush to increase his tally to match his heroes. For now, the bowler just wants to stick to the basics and hope selectors continue to place their faith in him.