London: Teenage batsman Haseeb Hameed could find himself helping to solve one of England's trickiest problems if he is included when the squads for the tour of Bangladesh are announced on Friday.
Finding a reliable partner for Test captain Alastair Cook at the top of the order has been a problem ever since former skipper Andrew Strauss retired in 2012.
The past four years have seen eight men -- Nick Compton, Joe Root, Michael Carberry, Sam Robson, Jonathan Trott, Adam Lyth, Moeen Ali and Alex Hales -- all given a chance to make the job their own.
But left-hander Cook will likely find himself walking out with a ninth different opening colleague after Hales, the most recent incumbent, ruled himself out of the tour last weekend, together with England limited overs captain Eoin Morgan, on security grounds.
The tour -- which begins on September 30 and will include two Tests and three ODIs -- had been called into question after an attack on a cafe in Dhaka in July which saw 20 hostages killed, including 18 foreigners.
Following the attack, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) sent a fact-finding delegation to Bangladesh led by Reg Dickason, their security officer.
Dickason said it was safe to tour but his reassurance was not enough to persuade Hales and Morgan to travel to Bangladesh.
If selected in the squad and then in the XI to play in the first Test in Chittagong on October 20, the 19-year-old Hameed would become England's youngest-ever opening batsman.
Although he has played just 18 first-class matches, Hameed has scored more than 1,000 runs this season.
England, unlike India and Pakistan, are traditionally reluctant to pick teenagers but coach Trevor Bayliss, when asked about Hameed's chances, said earlier this month: "If he's good enough, he's old enough.
"I wouldn't have any problem (picking him)," the Australian added.
From Bangladesh, England head straight into a five-Test series in India with no warm-up matches ahead of the second leg of their tour programme.
The absence of Hales -- who made an England one-day international record 171 in August -- will leave the team needing a new opening partner for Jason Roy at the top of their 50-over side.
England's selectors have also to decide on whether to retain out of form top-order batsman James Vince and, if they don't, whether to bring another specialist in to replace him, with Ian Bell aiming for an England recall.
They also have to work out if they need a third or even a fourth spinner in addition to Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid for the turning tracks they are likely to encounter in the sub-continent.
Hampshire left-armer Liam Dawson is most likely to be that extra spinner while uncapped batsman Ben Duckett, in prolific form for Northamptonshire and the second-string England Lions this season, could be in line for at least a one-day call-up.
England have already announced wicket-keeper Jos Buttler will captain the one-day side in Morgan's absence.
First Published On : Sep 16, 2016 09:34 IST