Big interview: Haseeb Hameed
Amidst all the straight backed, broad shouldered, muscular athletes who make up the modern day Lancashire squad, the ever-so-slight figure of Haseeb Hameed stands out like a beacon.
The precocious 20-year-old opening batsman boasts youthful – almost schoolboyish – physical features.
Yet there is certainly nothing childlike about the way he has adapted to the man’s world of cricket at both county and international level.
Not much has appeared to faze Hameed since the day he first wore the Red Rose of his county club at the age of just nine.
Progression through the ranks at Old Trafford has been both smooth, swift and remarkable.
His first-class bow at the end of 2015 was followed by a run-laden summer for his county last year, which culminating in his Test debut for England at the tender age of 19.
When Hameed walked out to bat with Alistair Cook against India in Rajkot, last November, he became the first Lancashire batsman to open the batting for England since Michael Atherton.
Nicknamed ‘Baby Boycott’ after the legendary Sir Geoffrey Boycott, due to his technical and unflappable style at the crease, Hameed belied his years and lived up to his billing in his first England appearance.
After a steady score of 31, the Bolton-born ace was just 18 runs short of a memorable century in the second innings until he unfortunately returned a catch to leg- spinner Amit Mishra.
Hameed, who is affectionately known as Has, went on to score another half-century in the third Test. Bravely playing with a broken finger – an injury which ultimately ended his series early – he finished unbeaten on 59.
It was a courageous knock which was later described as ‘special’ by then Three Lions skipper Cook.
And judging by the way the youngster commanded the attention of the Press pack at Lancashire’s recent pre-season media day, it is easy to see why his temperament has been identified as one which could flourish on the international stage.
Despite all the plaudits which have come his way in recent times, Hameed is eager to remain level headed as he readies himself for what could be another huge summer in his life.
“I don’t think too much has changed since last year,” he said. “I am still as excited now for the start of the new season as I was 12 months ago.
“I am still the same bubbly lad who is excited to be around a great group of lads here at Lancashire.
“I guess on a different level a lot of things have changed – things have progressed quickly for me over the last few months in particular.
“But is very important to make sure that you stay humble.
“As soon as you start to get ahead of yourself, the game will drag you back down.
“I am lucky to have people around me who will make sure that happens.”
With injury having forced him home early from India, Hameed could argue that he is the man in possession of an England shirt.
With home Test series against South Africa and West Indies to come later this year followed by the Ashes Tour Down Under during the winter, Hameed will be hoping for more international recognition.
However, the youngster is not looking too far ahead and is firmly focused on getting the season off to a bright start with Lancashire. I know there is a lot of cricket to be played before the Tests starts in July,” he said.
“I am sure the selectors will be looking at people’s form at the start of the season.
“So it is very important for me to keep putting performances in for Lancashire.”
However, as long as he is fully fit , it seems certain that Hameed will be named in the England squad this summer and he is keen to continue the form he showed in India.
“The way I was able to play in India, I was relatively happy with,” he said.
“It would have been nice to have got that hundred in my first Test.
“As a batsman you’re never really happy with the amount of runs you score – you always feel you can score more.
“But I did learn a lot of things out in India and hopefully I can take that into this year and keep progressing forward.”
In order to be the best player he can be, Hameed revealed he leaves no stone unturned in his pursuit.
He is a great student of the game and watches matches from the past, such as the famous Allan Donald and Atherton duel in 1998.
“We have a lot of quizzes at Lancashire and I am generally the quizmaster,” he said.
“That is something I pride myself on because I like to think I am a student of the game.
“I read up about and watch great games from the past.
“The Mike Atherton and Allan Donald duel was one of the great passages of play.
“I imagine what it would have been like to experience that passage of play.
“Atherton got hit, but he stood up to Donald and he will always be remembered for that.
“You hear about the different eras and watch people like Viv Richards bat and think, ‘Wow this guy was 30 years ahead of his generation’.
“Just looking back and watching the greats of the game, you can only really learn from them.”