Sachin Tendulkar's net-session in 2004 inspired Haseeb Hameed to play for England
As England re-ignited its rivalry with India on the latter’s home-soil with the first Test at Rajkot, it also marked a major breakthrough for a 19-year old, who made his debut for the tourists. Haseeb Hameed became the youngest ever opening batsman for the English team, starting off the innings with captain Alastair Cook. While there is a lot of hue and cry about England’s ability, or the lack of it, to play spin on Indian tracks, Hameed will be back to the country where he honed his batting skills as a youngster.
On Wednesday, Hameed became the tenth opening partner for Alastair Cook after Andrew Strauss’ retirement in 2012. While Cook has seen partners come and go back, the 19-year old Hameed will be a pleasant anomaly, being the first teenager since 1949 to play for England.
On the first day of play, his father, Ismail Hameed and family were in full attendance at the Rajkot stadium, vociferously backing the youngster as he opened the batting with skipper Alastair Cook.
Born in Bolton, Hameed is making his third visit to the sub-continent, and is strongly associated with the city of Mumbai. He was groomed by coach Vidyadhar Paradkar on Mumbai’s Cross Maidan. As he returned to India, he played his first Test in Gujarat, the state where his family’s roots are from.
Speaking to Mid-Day, coach Paradkar was all-praise for his protege, deeming him ready to face his newest, and by far, his biggest challenge. "Knowing his mindset I don't think there will be any pressure on his shoulders while making his debut. He is ready to face the Indian pacers as well as the spinners. He needs to be more cautious in the first five overs and then start carefully. Later on, when he is able to see the ball clearly, it will not be a problem for him to play his natural strokes".
This isn’t the only Mumbai-connection that the 19-year old has. As a seven-year-old kid at the MIG club in Mumbai, he watched Sachin Tendulkar bat in the nets and became inspired to take up the game.
Talking to the Times of India, his father said: “He was very excited and kept asking me about Sachin. I explained to him that he had seen the greatest batsman in the world, and then he said he wanted to become a batsman and play for England one day,"
As he geared up for his big Test against the No.1 side at Rajkot, his coach recalled the time when Hameed looked as ease while practising on the Mumbai pitches. "I still remember how he smashed the ball over Fashion Street while practising in the nets at Cross Maidan a year ago. He knows the conditions and nature of pitches here very well. I wouldn't be surprised if he plays a big innings, “ Paradkar told Mid-day.
He was asked if he wanted to attend the wedding of his brother near Bharuch, six hours away from Rajkot, but his family decided against it, asking the youngster to stay with the team. His father hails from the village of Umraj.
He looked assured during his maiden stay at the crease in Test cricket, scoring a solid 31 off 82 balls, before he was out leg before to Ravichandran Ashwin, India’s premier spinner.
Before Hameed, two of England’s biggest batsmen also made their respective debuts in India. While current skipper Cook made his debut count with a century in Nagpur, Joe Root, one of the best Test batsmen currently, scored a fifty while playing his first Test in 2012.