MUMBAI: While the world trained its eyes on the results of the US presidential elections on Wednesday, one family was fully absorbed in the proceedings at Rajkot where India faced off against England in the first Test. Ismail Hameed had brought along every member of his household to the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadiumto watch his son Haseeb, make his debut for England.
“Well, like every parent, I too was a bit nervous when he walked out to bat. But, once he settled in, all of us enjoyed his knock,” Hameed Sr, told TOI post the day’s proceedings. At 19 years and 297 days, Haseeb became the youngest opener to debut for England, and the fifth youngest overall in their long and illustrious Test cricketing history.
But, if one expected the boy from Bolton to look nervous and edgy facing up to the experienced Indian bowlers first up in the morning, they were in for a surprise as the Lancashire batsman showed remarkable composure during his 31-run knock that came off 82 balls. “Haseeb was fantastic today. His ability to stay focused has helped immensely in his steady rise, and hopefully, he will only get better from here,” observed Ismail.
Haseeb has caught the fancy of the cricket-loving public in England this season, thanks to some terrific performances in the County Championship Division One, where he top-scored for Lancashire with 1,198 runs in 16 matches at an impressive average of 49.91. The highlight of his season was the couple of centuries he hit against arch rivals Yorkshire in August.
“Haseeb has shown tremendous determination ever since he began playing cricket. I remember, we were in Mumbai in 2004 and he went to the MIG Club where he watched Sachin Tendulkar bat in the nets. 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,” recalled the proud father, who moved to Bolton from Surat almost three decades ago. Haseeb is not only good at batting, he is also a decent student. He completed his A Level, but studies have taken a backseat now after signing a four-year deal with Lancs.
He also has a Mumbai connect, in the sense that he trained with renowned coach Vidya Paradkar here in 2010 for about a month, and also played eight friendly matches for Police Gymkhana. “Haseeb is very dedicated to the game. I remember, when he came here six years ago, he turned up for practice soon after he had landed,” recalled retired ACP Iqbal Shaikh, a former joint cricket secretary of the Police Gym. “In fact, Haseeb wanted to play the Police Shield last year, but he could not as he is not registered with any club here,” added Shaikh.