In the first match that Tan was in charge as the head coach of Malaysia which was against Mongolia in Kuala Lumpur, he started with the pairing of Adam Nor Azlin and Fadhli Shas in the heart of the defence. Five games after that draw against Mongolia and a different individual looked to have cemented himself in one of those two positions.
When Malaysia went away to face Lebanon in the final Asian Cup qualifying group stage match, Shahrul was put in the starting line-up alongside Irfan Zakaria and that combination lasted the new few games including Bhutan, Fiji and Chinese Taipei.
In the last match against Cambodia only Shahrul remained in the starting line-up as Rawilson Batuil was given a chance alongside the 25-year-old Perakian, which clearly goes to show who Tan considers to be a permanent fixture in Malaysia's defence.
Shahrul was in the squad in the last AFF Suzuki Cup edition back in 2016 and even started the first match then against Cambodia, beside the more experienced figure of Shahrom Kalam. Shahrul's place in the first XI was eventually taken over by Ronny Harun but this time around, it's more of a question of who will partner him.
"Not yet certain (to get a place in the Suzuki Cup squad). We still have a few more friendlies to go. It's still in the selection phase and the coaches are still finding the right combination for the centre backs. But if I'm given a chance, I will definitely give my best."
"For now, I feel very comfortable with them. We are building up an understanding and they also gave me a lot of support. Whoever I'm paired with, I'm confident we can do well," Shahrul told Goal.
Over the last few seasons prior to this 2018 one, Shahrul occasionally switched between holding midfield and the defence. But the decision from Mehmet Durakovic to use him entirely only in defence seemed to have propelled Shahrul from a decent player to a very good one.
Coming up to the prime period of his career, Shahrul is part of the fine Perak team that are still in the Malaysia Cup and perhaps have one foot in the final. Showing more maturity, he definitely have come of age since two weeks ago when his critics were still left wondering what his best position is.
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