Syed Shahabuddin has played many a stellar innings both with the bat and the ball to rescue his team

He is six-feet plus and is as strong as an ox. He is considered the saviour of Andhra Ranji team and never hesitates to face a situation head-on on a cricket field. Meet 33-year-old Syed Shahabuddin, the gutsy all-rounder and the fire fighter of Andhra cricket team. This Anantapur lad, in his 14-year-long stay in Andhra cricket, has played many a stellar innings both with the bat and the ball to rescue his team.

In the on-going Ranji season too, Shahabuddin, despite age catching up, proved his critics wrong by scalping a five-wicket haul and a half-century against Jammu and Kashmir at Jammu paving the way for Andhra’s innings victory. “His imposing personality creates jitters in the enemy camp. Shabu has always been an inspiration to the younger crop of players,” say Ch. Krishna Rao, NCA level-3 coach.

“Unfortunately, Shahabuddin got a raw deal from the then think tank of Andhra Cricket Association. When Shahabuddin was at his peak, he was not considered for national duty. At one point, Shahabuddin was the leading wicket-taker in the South Zone. But as there was no support from the association, he failed to make it to the top,” says a veteran administrator in anonymity.

With no support coming from any quarter, Shahabuddin began to explore other avenues to showcase his cricketing abilities. He travelled to England to play the minor league and back at home he joined the now-defunct Indian Cricket League, representing the Hyderabad Heroes.

“It was ICL that taught me the nuances of twenty-20 format. I owe a lot to Australian coach Steve Nixon, who imparted many a valuable tip,” says Shahabuddin, who has scored around 2,500 first class runs and has taken 250-odd wickets.Shahabuddin’s innate talent and commitment drew the attention of former India all-rounder Robin Singh thus paving way for the Kadiri lad’s entry into the India Premier League.

“I will always cherish my stay with Mumbai Indians. My interactions with greats like Sachin Tendulkar, Pollard, Malinga and Harbhajan helped me focus on the game better.” Shahabudidn also keeps himself busy playing league tournaments at Chennai.

“Fast bowling is an art. Many a time success will elude the pacer especially if the wickets are flat. But the bowler should not get disheartened. He should maintain line and length and should stick to the basics,” says Shahabuddin. He also feels that as the all-rounders have multiple roles to perform, they should concentrate on fitness.

With Andhra placed second along with Services with 14 points (Assam on top with 20) in Group ‘C’, Shahabuddin has his task cut for the rest of the season to help Andhra Ranji team reach the next stage.