Haseeb Hameed: Setback to comeback

With his red-hot form, Hameed will be fancying his chances to make a comeback to Test cricket after 6 years.

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Haseeb Hameed
Haseeb Hameed. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Haseeb Hameed has been named in the 17-man England squad for the first two tests against India, starting August 4. This inclusion marks the possibility of him playing for the England men’s cricket team after 6 years. He first burst into the scene as a 19-year-old kid. In the 2016 season of Championship cricket (his first full season), he became the youngest Lancastrian to score 1000 runs, breaking Michael Atherton’s record. He also became the fifth-youngest to score 1000 runs for Lancashire in a season and the first to score a hundred in both the innings of the Roses match. His impeccable record in that season earned him a spot in the England men’s Test squad against India

What a way for him to start his Test career, as he got his Test cap in the first match of the five-match series from Michael Atherton himself in Gujarat, where his parents were originally from. What makes this even more special is that he became the youngest debutant to open for England in a Test match. He looked at ease as he made 31 and 82 in his debut in Rajkot, creating an immediate impact. 82 was also the highest Test score by a teenager for England, beating Jack Crawford’s 74 in Cape Town in 1906.

Everyone knew there was something about him as even before his debut, he was called ‘Baby Boycott’ by his teammates in honour of England opening great Geoffrey Boycott, a testament to his disciplined style of batting. Scyld Berry described Haseeb’s innings as “the most promising [debut] by an England batsman I’ve seen in 40 years.” Though he did not do well in the second Test, the Lancashire lad looked determined to do well in the third Test until one ball just bounced “out of nowhere” and hit his left finger where he “literally had his finger in pieces”, said captain Virat Kohli, describing the youngster’s injury.

For obvious reasons, he could not open in the second innings as Joe Root opened with Alastair cook but seeing that his team wasn’t doing well, he came in when the score read 107 for the loss of 6 wickets with a broken finger and scored 59* in 156 balls, holding the team together for 43.4 overs.

What was also magnificent to watch was the way he constructed that innings. Despite the pain he was going through, he wasn’t in a hurry to score runs while Joe Root or Chris Woakes were on the crease. As soon as Woakes got out, he started farming as much strike as possible. The youngster’s score was 23 in 127 balls then and he was quick to change his gears as before the last wicket was down, he added 36 to his score in just 29 balls. It was later announced that he couldn’t take part in the rest of the series.

Learning that Haseeb is an admirer of the way Virat plays the game, the Indian Test skipper took the time to talk to him about the game. Talking about how good a player Haseeb is, Virat said “he is a very gutsy kid and someone with a lot of character.”

Virat Kohli and Haseeb Hameed
Virat Kohli and Haseeb Hameed. (Photo Source: Twitter)

However, just like any other athlete, Haseeb had his setbacks. Since the injury, he experienced a huge dip in his form as he averaged 26.1 in the 2017 Championship season and a paltry 9.44 in the 2018 edition. He then showed signs of a comeback when he averaged 28.41 in the 2019 season but then his contract with Lancashire ended.

Nottinghamshire and Peter Moores offered him a way back and found his touch, leading to an average of 38.85 in the 2020 season. Hameed is someone who works really hard but Peter found that he probably was trying “too hard” and reminded him of “the fun you can have with a game of cricket”.

His 2021 season was the pinnacle of his form as the 24-year-old averaged 52.66, also scoring twin centuries against Worcestershire which earned him a place in the England squad for the Test series against New Zealand in 2021. “Having got a taste of it very young and then those experiences that followed, it has been an absolute rollercoaster but that ambition is still there” Bolton-born Hameed said when asked about the England recall.

The last few years must have been mentally tough for him as though he did not consider “walking away from the game,” he said he had doubts. He did not feature in the New Zealand series but was given an opportunity to play in the warm-up match against India XI, where he scored yet another ton before being named again in the squad for the series against India.

The million-dollar question is, will Haseeb Hameed make his comeback to Test cricket after 6 years? With his red-hot form and given that it’s a five-match Test series to be played in the bubble, Haseeb will be fancying his chances.

By Saravana Chilamakuri

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