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England v India

Should Haseeb Hameed be in England’s Test XI against India?

by Cameron Ponsonby 4 minute read

Haseeb Hameed registered an impressive 112 against the Indian touring side leading to increased debate over the merits of his argument for an England Test place. Cameron Ponsonby looks back over his rise, fall, and rise again.

Haseeb Hameed first burst onto the scene as 19-year-old in 2016. Four County Championship hundreds, including two in the same Roses clash against Yorkshire, led to an England debut against India in Rajkot. He instantly looked at home and unflustered, registering a half-century in his second innings, described by Scyld Berry as “the most promising [debut] by an England batsmen I’ve seen in 40 years.”

His decline was just as dramatic as his rise. A broken digit sustained in the third game of that series saw a Test career that was all but in his grasp suddenly slip through his fingers. A dramatic downturn in form followed as Hameed averaged 26.10 in the County Championship in 2017 and a scarcely believable 9.44 in 2018.

It was a sign of the desperate low reached that his average of 28.41 in 2019 signalled a hopeful return to what had come before, but hopeful, it was. An early-season century against Middlesex, his first in three seasons, may have been an anomaly for the year but represented an achievement of determination and resilience as much as it did talent. A hurdle crossed, but still within months his time at his boyhood club was at an end.

A Lancashire lad through and through who had gone all the way up through the age groups. It was just as that Test match at Headingley was taking shape that the news broke; Hameed would be released at the end of the season. Everyone has to move out of home at some point, and at 22, Lancashire had told him it was time to find a job in the big wide world.

Nottinghamshire and Peter Moores offered a way back in and a productive, if not dominant, season immediately followed. Hameed scored three fifties across seven innings in the Bob Willis Trophy, averaging 38.85 along the way. It’s well known that Hameed is an incredibly hard worker, training more than anyone in an effort to just make it work. At first, Moores commented that this had led to Hameed trying too hard. But over time at Notts, Hameed learnt to relax again and remembered, “the fun you can have with a game of cricket”, said Moores. Away from Lancs, Hameed was able to just be himself a bit more. Leave the washing up until tomorrow morning and have a lie-in. Why not? It’s your house, after all.

The new Hameed took its latest form ahead of the 2021 season. The short back and sides were gone and the long flowing locks and beard were in. It was another example of a player, or more to the point a man, ever more at ease with themselves and their game.

It was perhaps of little surprise then that 2021 also saw a return to the results that had seen him rise to the pinnacle of the game five years previously. Twin centuries against Worcestershire led to his return to the England squad for the first time since 2016 and was followed by three further half-centuries that has seen him average 45.85 across the season. Such form also led to him being selected for the County XI against the Indian touring side and the century that followed felt like a moment where the new Hameed cemented his return to being a player of international contention once again. And as it happens, the new Hameed feels an awful lot like the old one.

The question now is where he fits into England’s considerations. Of the current top three of Burns, Sibley and Crawley, it is perhaps Crawley’s position who looks the weakest having averaged 15.38 over his last six Test matches. However, there is little doubt that England considers Crawley’s potential ceiling to be amongst the highest, if not the highest, in the country. But equally, there is also little doubt that of the two, Hameed is in the stronger red-ball form.

Still, it’s worth tempering the excitement. Hameed has made Championship tons in just two games since that 2016 season. A rapid elevation before had disastrous consequences. Could a swift recall do the same again? Who walks out for England at Trent Bridge on August 4 remains to be seen. For now, let’s just be happy that a player who seemed to have lost the love for cricket has once more rediscovered a bit of joy.

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