Prospect of a Test debut holds no fears for England rookie Ahmed
I am ready to make history! Prospect of a landmark Test debut holds no fears for England rookie Ahmed following late call-up as the first Test against Pakistan edges closer
- Rehen Ahmed could be set to become England’s youngest Test cricket debutant
- He could play for Ben Stokes’ side against Pakistan in the first Test next week
- The 18-year-old has played just three first-class games but is rated highly
- He could play alongside off-spinner Jack Leach if England feel the pitch will turn
Anyone questioning whether England are serious about making Rehan Ahmed their youngest Test cricketer in the upcoming three-match series in Pakistan has clearly not been paying attention.
The regime of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum do not follow convention and it is why they opted this week to add the Leicestershire teenager to a touring party that now numbers 16.
As they have already shown, they make their own rules rather than conform to those of others and, if they believe that this week’s pitch in Rawalpindi will take a turn, they will consider fielding the 18-year-old as a second spinner behind Jack Leach.
Rehen Ahmed could be in position to become England’s youngest ever test debutant
Captain Ben Stokes (left) and head coach Brendon McCullum (right) will not be scared to throw the youngster into the fold
Ahmed will become England’s youngest men’s Test player if he makes his debut in the first Test
Doing so would break a record that has stood since 1949. If he is not included, an historical debut would sbe on the cards either at Multan (December 9) or Karachi (December 17).
Some will suggest the prodigious all-rounder is not yet ready for the demands of the top level, having played only three first-class matches, but this England hierarchy are forward facers rather than over-the-shoulder glancers, which is no bad thing given the team is winless in 11 away Tests, with eight defeats.
They are all too aware of the need to do things differently overseas and, despite his tender age, Ahmed is not someone who has crept up on them. Quite the opposite, in fact. His leg-spin was dismissing Test players in the Lord’s nets not long after he left primary school and he has made numerous reappearances in practices since.
Being able to cope mentally with elevation into higher company is a key trait for Test cricketers and it is why his belated addition has been an open secret since it was picked last month.
They followed through on that this week when McCullum called him aside, following a spell of 8-0-73-0 for England Lions against England in Abu Dhabi, not to dwell on what had not happened for him in that match but what might happen in others. They know he is far from being the finished article but sense his development will be catalysed by inclusion in full squads.
He could play alongside Jack Leach if England feel the pitch in the first Test will turn
‘I feel mentally ready. I feel like I always have to be ready for that moment,’ said Ahmed of the prospect of an England debut. His multi-functional qualities fit the bill: wrist spin is complemented by tigerish fielding at backward point and he also considers himself a frontline batter.
Indeed, in his most recent County Championship appearance against Derbyshire, he scored his first hundred as well as claiming a maiden five-wicket haul.
A generation and a half down the line, he promises to be the kind of cricketer that Adil Rashid threatened to become. Such has been the importance of his bowling to England in white-ball cricket in recent years, it is easily overlooked that Rashid was a regular at 18 in a strong Yorkshire top six and had 10 first-class hundreds to his name before he exited his 20s.
The 18-year-old has played just three first-class games but scored a century and picked up five wickets in his last outing
His batting will strengthen a tail in which Jimmy Anderson (left) and Ollie Robinson (right) average single figures
Ahmed’s inclusion would strengthen a tail in which Jimmy Anderson and Ollie Robinson average single figures and Leach 13.25, a mark significantly boosted by a nightwatchman’s 92 against Ireland.
Such is Ahmed’s confidence with the bat, in fact, that he talked head coach Paul Nixon and Claude Henderson, the club’s director of cricket, into promoting him to No5 in that Derbyshire contest.
‘It was the last game of the season and I’d been asking to bat higher in every single game I’d played,’ he said. ‘It was one of those times of the year that we hadn’t got anything to win and not much to lose, so the coaches took a chance on me.’
Under Stokes, England have focused on wicket taking rather than saving runs with the ball
Ahmed also plays in the manner England crave — hours after being told of his travel upgrade from net bowler to official squad member, he whacked the Lions attack for 26 runs from just 10 balls, including two sixes and three fours.
Under Stokes, England have focused on wicket-taking rather than run-saving and Ahmed highlighted his capacity for getting good players out when, in July, he claimed three victims in England Lions’ one-day win over South Africa, including Janneman Malan, with a pleasingly deceptive googly.
Now, with only part-timers Liam Livingstone and Will Jacks for competition, there is a genuine chance he will take on international batters, with the stakes higher in the country of his taxi-driving dad Naeem’s birth. He said: ‘It would mean the world to represent England in Pakistan.’
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