India vs England: In Haseeb Hameed, visitors have a solid, long-term prospect at the top of the order - Firstpost
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India vs England: In Haseeb Hameed, visitors have a solid, long-term prospect at the top of the order


Haseeb Hameed was marked out for big things since he was incredibly young. When he was just nine-years-old, he was already playing for Lancashire's Under-11 team; he was representing the England U-19 at the age of 17. His star has been on the ascent for years, but 2016 has been just remarkable for the lad from Bolton.

He is now a first-team regular as opening batsman for Lancashire and has piled on the runs. He scored 1,198 runs in the first division of the County Championship at an average of 49.91, with four centuries and seven fifties. He is the first teenager to manage four centuries in a single first-class season. Two of those came in one match against Lancashire's cross-Pennine rivals, Yorkshire, further cementing Hameed's place in the hearts of his county's supporters. Those hundreds against Yorkshire made him the first player from Lancashire to achieve that feat against their fiercest rivals and also the youngest player to manage a hundred in each innings in England.

He is the youngest Lancastrian to score 1,000 runs in a season and fifth youngest to the feat in English county cricket. That his phenomenal season culminated in selection for a full England tour made this year all he could have wished for.

England's Haseeb Hameed. AFP

England's Haseeb Hameed may make his Test debut on this tour. AFP

But the year actually started with disappointment — he was left out of the England squad for the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh. He was phlegmatic about it though, telling AllOutCricket that it was a "blessing" as he got to spend the winter in the Old Trafford nets.

In that same interview from April this year, which singled him out as one of their players to watch in 2016 (a call that they got spot on), Hameed described his game. "I'm quite technical. From what my dad's taught me, my game's built around having a good technique. I'm quite a skinny lad, so I do depend quite a lot on timing rather than being someone who just whacks it, but I've played quite a lot of one-day cricket now, and the way I see it, I'd like to be someone who can play all three formats."

For now, however, he is very much seen as a Test match prospect. He hasn't played a List A or T20 game in county cricket yet, and there have been favourable comparisons with Geoff Boycott. When playing for England's U-19 team in a youth Test in Perth, he scored 91 not out from 256 balls to save the match. His strike-rate in first-class cricket this season is a pedestrian 39.01 and he has a reputation of being a plodder, but not in the pejorative sense.

That is not to say that he cannot score quickly when needed to. The second of those centuries against Yorkshire came from 124 balls, as he and Tom Smith put on 162 runs in a 23-over session.

Hameed is wise beyond his years and knows that his tight, technical game is what got him selected for this tour. While he can score quickly, don't expect him slashing the ball over third man if he does make his Test debut in India.

There is a case to be made that Hameed should have made his debut in the series in Bangladesh. While Ben Duckett, the man who did get the opener's berth, has the game to bat anywhere in the top six, it is difficult to imagine Hameed anywhere but at the top of the order. With Duckett having made a maiden Test fifty in the second Test in Dhaka, it seems he will be the man to open with Alastair Cook in the first Test against India in Rajkot, but there are still places up for grabs in the batting line-up.

Gary Ballance's spot is under serious threat. What England could do is open with Hameed and move Duckett to four, but this seems very unfair on the latter, who has done little wrong in his first two matches.

It could be that Hameed gets little more from this tour than some experience of the senior England set-up, but that is no bad thing. He has plenty of time to stake his claim to the openers spot. And by the time Alastair Cook plays his final Test at some point in the next 5-7 years, the man he will be opening the batting with will be Haseeb Hameed.

First Published On : Nov 6, 2016 13:35 IST

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