Player Spotlight: Safyaan Sharif
There was widespread praise for Safyaan Sharif’s swashbuckling innings which nearly yielded a remarkable victory against Ireland A in Ayr this week.
The 25-year-old Scotland player has never lacked ability with bat or ball, but the fashion in which he blazed his way to 133 not out impressed many observers as a testimony to the fashion in which the 25-year-old has enhanced his repertoire in recent times.
Sharif is no shrinking violet, and he has emerged as one of the pivotal performers in a youthful international set-up since the end of the World Cup last year. But his tough-as-teak attitude is typical of the new philosophy among the Associate countries.
He knows the Scots and Irish served up a thoroughly engrossing three-day contest in glorious conditions, but he also appreciates that the only fact which will be recorded in the chronicles is that Scotland lost.
As he remarked to CricIndex: “I thought the game was really good and, obviously, it was a great opportunity for the youngsters. We played some good cricket in periods and not so great in some periods.
“If we had played well for a longer time in some periods, we would’ve got the WIN. Obviously it is a learning process and we can learn from these mistakes.
“Overall, I think the youngsters did really well against a top quality side to get close to almost winning. So it’s a great step forward for the youngsters because they will know after playing against a good side what they need to work on.
“ It’s good for them to get this opportunity and experience at such a young age and they will know now what to expect and what standard they will be playing in future.”
Sharif has demonstrated his unstinting desire for self-improvement since he burst into the Scotland reckoning. He went to Pakistan to ply his trade at a high level and his life has gone full circle since he was born in Huddersfield, en route to his current club, Falkland.
As he affirmed, his commitment to honing his skills has been evident in his rise up the batting order, wherever he plays. And there is no secret to his success.
“I learnt most of my batting when I went to Pakistan to train,” he said. “I have always known how to bat, but I have not performed as much or as well with the bat as I have with the ball.
“This year, I have been working hard with the bat and making sure I am giving myself a chance to play a long innings. I want to be known as an all-rounder, so I am pushing myself to do well in all departments.”
The Scots are in the midst of preparing for two important matches against Afghanistan in Edinburgh next month and Sharif has already tasted frustration in his jousts with the world’s fastest-rising Associate.
Yet, despite the pain of nerve-shredding losses in both the World Cup in 2015 and World T20 this March, he doesn’t feel intimidated by the forthcoming challenge.
Instead, he declared: “I feel very positive about the development of this Scotland team because a lot of youngsters are coming through the ranks which is a good sign.
“I believe the team is doing well and I feel good myself, but I think we need to continue to work hard to beat a top quality side because we know Afghanistan is a very dangerous team and it won’t be easy to beat them.
“We just need to continue to perform well and continue to work hard in the crucial parts of the games and am sure we will get those wins in the future.”
Sharif is a grounded lad, but he would love to perform at the highest level during the next decade. In which light, he agrees with Ireland’s William Porterfield and Afghanistan’s Mo Shahzad that the ICC’s proposal to create a two-tier Test structure would be a terrific boost for the sport.
He said: “I would love to see Scotland in the test structure, because it will be a good experience and we will know what to expect.
“We, as players, will also learn a lot which will help us to improve our game and cricketing skills.”
The world is changing and Scotland with it. Safy Sharif is one of those at the forefront of the transformation.