At only 16 years, Pakistani Player Naseem Shah, who is mourning his mother’s death last week, was welcomed into the team. Pakistan believes that the express bowling impact of Naseem could be a match-winner in the opening Test against Australia.
Starting on Thursday at the Gabba in Brisbane, Naseem impressed with a fiery eight-over spell against Australia A in Perth. Naseem will join a handful of others to begin a Test career at 16 if he makes the grade.
In 1996, the youngest-ever Test player who was listed by ESPNCricinfo was Pakistan’s, Hasan Raza. He was aged only 14, although his date of birth was disputed after that.
“The best thing about Naseem Shah is his control he has on the bowling,” head coach Misbah-ul-Haq. He added, “His bowling action is very good and knows which deliveries to bowl. He can bowl with very good control. He knows his stuff and bowled well in the first-class matches he played during this season. He has bowled well here too and is the standout bowler for us. The way he’s been bowling, he may be a match-winner for us.”
Earlier, Pakistan has had a history of blooding promising players, accounting for six out of the 10 youngest who played in Test matches.
Pakistan Cricket Board’s chief executive Wasim Khan told the Sydney Morning Herald on why Naseem is remaining in Australia. He said, “He spoke to his family, and they said ‘this is the place where your mum would have wanted you to be’.
Everyone is rallying around him, keeping a close eye on him to make sure he’s okay.
Khan added, “He’s got a few confidantes in the team that he can go to if he’s feeling down or not feeling great. He wanted to stay it out.”
Naseem played only seven first-class games and while selectors like what they see, how he manages it in the heat of battle over five days against world-class batsmen such as Steve Smith and David Warner has to be seen.
The seasoned campaigner Smith warned that if the young one gets the nod, he won’t be afraid to exploit Naseem’s inexperience. “He’s half my age. It will be interesting … 16 is young,” Smith told reporters.
“I dare say you would be pretty nervous at 16 playing a Test match, particularly away from home. He has got some skill if they are picking him and you don’t take anyone lightly. For us, we will be trying to get as many overs into him as possible and trying to wear him down. He would not be used to bowling lots and lots of overs, so that’ll be the plan,” added Smith.
Pakistan’s squad — hampered by the retirement of Mohammad Amir this year and Wahab Riaz — also includes Musa Khan who is a 19-year-old fast bowler and along with Shaheen Afridi.
They also have senior Imran Khan, who is back in the Test squad for the first time since their Australian tour in 2017, as well as the dangerous Mohammad Abbas and prolific leg-spinner Yasir Shah.