When you speak to Shahbaz Nadeem about how he sees himself fitting in the Indian cricket team, the 23-year-old has a simple answer: "Only the best players get the chance to represent their country. And if you are No. 1 in your field, there is always room for you. And if you are not No. 1 then the person who is more deserving will get that place," he tells Cricketnext.
Nadeem terms this positive attitude as his forte and wants to carry it forward as he moves along in his career. Nadeem, who is also the skipper of the Jharkhand Ranji Trophy side, was last month selected in the India A team to tour South Africa in a few days time.
And going by how he fared in the first-class cricket last season and in IPL 6, the chances are that he is going to make his mark in South Africa as well. "If I have to play for the country then I have to do well everywhere and I am prepared to do that even in South Africa," says Nadeem, who was the fourth highest wicket-taker in the 2012-13 Ranji season with 42 scalps at 25.97. He was also the only spinner to feature in the top five in that list.
Nadeem also speaks about how bowling in first-class matches is different than bowling in shorter formats, adding that his showing in the last season has given him a platform. "I got a huge boost after my performance in the last season. In four-day matches, you have more time to show your ability which is not the case in shorter formats. It really tests your ability because you bowl to players who have been playing for their team for a many years," he says.
In the last year or so, Nadeem has not just worked on his orthodox left-arm spin, but also on deliveries like the arm ball and doosra, which he believes is more useful in limited-overs cricket. "Along with my orthodox spin, I worked on various deliveries like arm-ball and doosra in the past one year. But all these variations are more helpful in shorter formats than in four-day cricket," says Nadeem, who picked up nine wickets playing for Delhi Daredevils in IPL 6.
About his exposure in the IPL, Nadeem feels that playing alongside international players was a different experience altogether and that helped him grew as a cricketer. "In the IPL you play with world class players. If you take their wickets or if you don't allow them to get on top of your bowling, it gives you a lot of confidence as a bowler," he says. "I have been playing for Delhi for the last three years and my performance has been good so far. IPL gives you the sort of exposure you wouldn't get otherwise."
After IPL 6 he has been training in the past three months and is now ready to perform for India A. "I practised first in the state camps and then attended a bowlers' camp at the NCA, which was organised for the top 15 bowlers of the last Ranji Trophy season," he says.
Terming the upcoming tour as "very crucial", Nadeem feels a good performance in South Africa could pave the way for his entry in the senior team. "It's a crucial tour not just for me but for everyone who has been selected for the tour. If we do well there, it will give us a chance to claim a stake in the Indian team."