Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rookie Is a Gamble but Opener Belies His Years

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Rookie Is a Gamble but Opener Belies His Years

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Collomosse Cricket Correspondent

TEN years ago, under exacting circumstances, a 21-year-old England opening batsman scored an unbeaten century on his Test debut in India.

One hundred and thirtyfour Tests later, perhaps the memory of that game has persuaded England captain Alastair Cook that Haseeb Hameed is ready to walk the same path.

Hameed will play for England for the first time tomorrow, in similarly challenging conditions to those that confronted Cook. Hameed does not turn 20 until January 17 and has only 20 first-class matches behind him hardly substantial experience when preparing to face India spinners Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja in their own back yard.

More pertinently, England did not trust Hameed to open the innings with Cook in Bangladesh. Bangladesh are ninth in the world Test rankings, while India lead them. It is rather like deciding a young boxer is not ready to take on a mid-ranking fighter and then pitching him against a world champion a few weeks later.

While this is a gamble, however, two precedents are encouraging. Cook scored 60 and 104 not out in that match in Nagpur in March 2006 and now has 10,688 Test runs, more than any other Englishman.

When England picked Joe Root for the Nagpur Test in 2012, eyebrows were raised. Today, Root is rightly considered one of the most complete batsmen in the game.

Ashley Giles, Hameed's coach at Lancashire, is a measured character who rarely makes snap judgments.

So when he made the following assessment of Hameed, those involved in English cricket took notice. After Hameed, who was then 18, had scored 91 for Lancashire against Surrey in September 2015, Giles said: "He just loves batting and he does not give it away, which are great attributes to have.

"The only player I've seen with that sort of mindset, to that degree, is Jonathan Trott, and he had a pretty good international career."

Trott scored nearly 4,000 runs in 52 Tests at an average of 44 and was the rock on which the England batting line-up was built as they reached the top of the ICC rankings in 2011 and won three Ashes series between 2009 and 2013. …

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