The world-class leg-spinner, the new star fast bowler and the century-making opener. Yasir Shah, Naseem Shah and Shan Masood are three of the key players in Pakistan’s Test team.
Before the third Test against England, which starts on Friday with the tourists looking to draw the series 1-1, the trio spoke exclusively to the BBC’s Aatif Nawaz.
Yasir, Naseem and Shan talked about life in the cricket bubble, facing James Anderson and Stuart Broad, missing their fans and more…
Table tennis, green tea and Imam’s jokes
The Pakistan squad arrived in the UK for the tour on 28 June and by the time they leave will have spent about 10 weeks together in the bio-secure environment created because of the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve had to find ways to entertain themselves during downtime:
Yasir: We chill out in our rooms together and have green tea. Shaheen [Afridi] is a good friend and is a great host. We go to his room, he looks after us, we have green tea, chat and have a good laugh. It feels really nice. We play snooker and table tennis in the team games room. Everyone’s pretty good but the coaches are very good.
Shan: Batsman Imam-ul-Haq by a mile is the funniest character in the dressing room. He has a joke under his sleeve every time. There is no person he lets go. You just don’t want to be Imam’s target. He is quite a character.
Naseem: We’re cherishing this time because we’ve got to know about each other’s lives, listen to stories and get to know each other a bit better. Everyone tells great stories but pace bowler Imran Khan has the best stories, he’s such a good laugh.
Naseem on ‘Lillee Shah’ nickname
Naseem has been nicknamed “Lillee Shah” by his team-mates because his bowling action is similar to that of Australia great Dennis Lillee:
Naseem: He’s such a big legend.
I just do my natural bowling and a legend like that has worked so hard. I’ll try my very best to try and work as hard as him if not harder and make a name for myself.
The senior players all show so much love for me as I’m the youngest in the team. They call me this name and it motivates me that they have so much faith in me.
Pakistan’s coaching staff of legends
Pakistan’s coaching line-up includes legends such as former batsman Younis Khan and ex-fast bowler Waqar Younis. Batting coach Younis was pictured playing with Yasir’s hair during a Test:
Yasir: I love spending time with Younis. The time passes well even when he was playing. Now he’s the batting coach and he really loves us all. He told me ‘I love you so much, I see no difference between you and my son’. He said he only stroked his son’s hair like that. I didn’t even realise that anyone was filming.
Naseem: I’m very close to Waqar and it’s not just cricket, it’s about life. He asks me about everything and I’m not scared of such a big legend. The only thing I fear is that I don’t want to ever say the wrong thing. He advises me on everything in life.
Facing legend Anderson
Naseem: Anderson is a legendary bowler. His line and length bowling, the swing, control, and his action is incredible. Afterwards I watched the clip on my phone and couldn’t believe it. I used to watch him on TV.
Shan: Jimmy makes the ball talk, he is a phenomenal bowler. Playing him, those are the things you play for.
Singing while facing Starc and Cummins
Shan, who scored a century in the first Test against England, reveals he sings to himself while at the crease:
Shan: Whenever I’m batting there’s always a song in my head.
One I remember vividly was when I was at the Gabba – facing Australia’s Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood. That was always going to be a feisty battle so I kept a slow song, I kept singing Memories by Maroon 5 just to calm myself down.
‘Keep supporting us and pray for us’
Yasir: We miss our fans so much. We miss the crowds. When they come to see us especially when we’re in a different country we’re sad to not see them. We hope to see them next time.
Naseem: I get loads of messages on Instagram and I read them all. We’ve had so much love and support and if the crowd were here we would have loved to have seen them but because of coronavirus everyone has to watch the matches at home.
I want to say to the fans please keep supporting us and pray for us that we can play well and that you’ll enjoy it all.
‘Our children deserve to see world stars in Pakistan’
Test cricket returned to Pakistan for first time in 10 years in December. England have not toured Pakistan since 2005:
Shan: I think cricket coming back to Pakistan was very meaningful for us. It makes us all very emotional, very passionate, because kids didn’t get to see their heroes, so people drifted away from the game.
Now when you go to the stadium you hear chants of “Babar”, “Shaheen” and “Abid”. When Abid Ali made his debut and scored back-to-back centuries the way the crowd chanted “Abid! Abid!”, those are the things you live to see.
What would make it better would be that we get cricketing heroes like Ben Stokes, like Joe Root, like Jos Buttler, all of them even guys like Stuart Broad and James Anderson coming to Pakistan and just helping Pakistan cricket out.
We’ve suffered a lot, we paid a huge price for whatever’s been going on around the world and I think our people, but especially our children, our future generation, they deserve to see not just their Pakistani heroes but the cricketing heroes from [around] the globe.