RAJKOT: Teen sensation Haseeb Hameed will make his Test debut against India, England announced Tuesday, capping a fairytale rise for a player dubbed the “Baby Boycott” for his uunflappable batting style.
At 19 years, Hameed will become the youngest player to open the batting in England’s Test history after skipper Alastair Cook named him in the starting XI for the series-opener beginning in Rajkot on Wednesday.
“To average 50 in Division One (of the English county championship) as a 19-year-old is an incredible feat,” Cook said of Hameed, who has drawn comparisons to batting legend Geoff Boycott for his solid technique and knack of playing lengthy innings.
“I remember how hard it was and I was nowhere near the player he is at 19,” Cook said at the pre-match press conference.
Cook, 31, also sought to dampen speculation about his future as England’s Test skipper after admitting that he could quit following the current tour of India.
He was speaking in response to his interview in this month’s Cricketer magazine in which he said he did not know how much longer he would carry on at the helm, saying the end could come after the India series.
“Ever since the Sri Lanka series before the 2015 World Cup I have been open and said we’ll take it series by series,” Cook said.
“When someone asks ‘For how long you see yourself as the captain’ … I said I don’t know, it could be two months which could be the end of this series or it could be six months or the next one or two years,” he said.
“This is the kind of answer I gave and obviously headlines have been made. But my situation hasn’t changed… So to me, it’s business as usual. It’s a mountain out of a molehill.”
– ‘Incredibly unflappable’ –
The left-handed opener, who is set to break Michael Atherton’s record of 54 Tests as England captain in Rajkot, stopped short of naming the playing XI since he said he had not had a good look at the wicket.
But he said Ben Duckett, who opened in the last Test against Bangladesh, would drop down the order to accommodate Hameed while the struggling Gary Ballance has been dropped.
Hameed’s first cap comes on the back of an impressive 1,455 first-class runs from 20 games and some strong shows in recent England warm-up matches.
“He’s incredibly unflappable,” said Cook, lavishing praise on the youngster who has an Indian-born father.
“He looks a very good player of spin. He picks length very well and uses the crease well, both forward and back.
“Stuart Broad bowled at him last summer and was almost straight on the phone to me saying how impressed he was with this guy.
“It’s really exciting. Of course there are going to be some tough moments for him over the next few years of playing Test cricket, but this guy can play.”
Indian skipper Virat Kohli meanwhile said he would not be haunted by past failures against England, having scored just 322 runs in 17 Test match innings against them.
When India toured England in 2014, Kohli averaged just 13 as India lost the series 3-1 in what was the low point of an outstanding career.
“It was a phase when I did not perform too well,” Kohli said.
“It was England but it could have been any other country in the world. It made me realise that I need to up my game.
“I am thankful to England as I have been a very improved cricketer from thereon. I just take it (that phase) as a setback in my career.”