Compton: Root should be a permanent No. 4 for England
Haseeb Hameed has been urged not to rest on his laurels following the impressive start to his Test career. While praising Hameed’s “remarkable” second-innings half-century in Mohali, Joe Root also encouraged his young colleague to respond to his early success by working ever harder.
Having received widespread acclaim at the end of the Mohali Test – not least from India’s captain, Virat Kohli – Hameed now returns to England for an operation on his hand following a serious break of his little finger. But any danger that he might let the praise go to his head – and, to be fair, it doesn’t seem as if there was much danger – will have been dispelled by Root’s gentle words of warning and encouragement.
“The only advice I gave was, make sure you don’t go back to county cricket at the start of the summer and rest on your laurels,” Root said. “Don’t think: I’m a Test cricketer now.
“It’s an opportunity to prove to everyone in county cricket that you are there for a reason. You have opportunities to make some really big scores, to keep learning and to keep improving. He has the opportunity to put the good work he has done in India into his game and continue to develop the way he has done.”
Root’s words are both well-intentioned and wise. As he found after an encouraging start to his own career, Test cricket is hugely demanding and the pain of being dropped at the end of the Ashes tour of 2013-14 continues to motivate him.
So while Hameed’s start has been exciting, Root wants him to be ready for the challenges ahead and to know there is much, much more to achieve. He also warned that more will be expected of Hameed now and that will bring different challenges.
Still, Hameed returns to England having made an excellent impression. It is not so much the runs he scored – two half-centuries in six innings does not look so special, after all – but the composure with which he batted under pressure and in conditions in which his colleagues have struggled. Aged 19, he already looks one of the more composed batsmen in the side.
“The way he played with a broken hand the other day was remarkable,” Root said. “For such a young lad to show composure, to manipulate the strike and also hit some of the best spinners in the world for boundaries was very, very impressive.
“For a 19-year-old lad to come into this environment and be so composed and mature… You watch him practice, and you would think he had played 60 or 70 games. It’s great to see someone come in with that attitude and hopefully, that stays with him for a long time.
“He will have different expectations in the future and that might be a different challenge. But he has got a very good head on his shoulders and he should be proud of what he has done so far. Now it is about managing those expectations and being realistic: it’s going to take time to keep developing and it might not always go how he wants. But sometimes you have to have those little tumbles to get right to the top. I’m sure that if he does have some hard times, he’ll get through it.”
It is revealing to study Hameed’s dismissals. Of the five of them, one was a run-out (for which he was largely blameless), one came as he tried to up the pace in a bid to set up a declaration in Rajkot, one came when he was the victim of a shooter in Vizag – a truly unplayable ball – and another came when he received a delivery that reared off a length in Mohali. There were one or two signs of weakness, mainly against the short ball, but his figures do not flatter him. He looked assured, elegant and ready.
The ECB undertook some research a few years ago that underlined the impression that players who do well do so at the start of their Test career.
There are notable exceptions either way, of course – Graham Gooch suffered a ‘pair’ on debut; David Lloyd had an average of 260 after two Tests – but it might be telling that, of the last England side to reach No. 1 in the Test rankings, four of the batsmen (Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss, Jonathan Trott and Matt Prior) made centuries on debut and two others (Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell) made half-centuries. One of the bowlers (James Anderson) took a five-for on Test debut, too, while another (Graeme Swann) too two wickets in his first over.
The confidence of those early experiences may well have laid the path to subsequent success. Whichever way you look at it, Hameed would appear to have a bright future.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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