With a frustrating 2017 behind him, Haseeb Hameed will be hoping for better fortunes over the next five months as he bids to remind people of what he’s capable of with the bat.
Just seven months ago, the 21-year-old saw his season end in pain after suffering a finger injury against Middlesex and effectively ending his slim hopes of making the Ashes squad Down Under.
Hameed has always been on the England radar ever since he made his Test debut against India in 2016 after an impressive campaign for Lancashire.
Aged 19 at the time, he became his country’s youngest opener and could not have asked for a better start to his international career – scoring 82 in the second innings in Rajkot.
That should have kick-started a long career ahead in the whites of England but a finger injury to his left hand meant he had to fly back to Manchester after just three Test outings.
He hasn’t appeared for his country since and in the last 12 months, he was a shadow of the player that first blossomed two years ago.
The Bolton-born batsman struggled for form all last summer and registered only one first-class half-century between April and September, before knocks of 88 and 62 against Essex and Somerset at the backend of the campaign gave him a welcome boost.
And with just over two weeks to go until Lancashire open their County Championship season against Nottinghamshire on April 13, Hameed can be confident of where his game is at going into the fixture.
During the club’s pre-season tour, Hameed sent out another reminder of his potential with a solid century, scoring 126 in a two-day match against Glamorgan at Dubai’s ICC Academy. A few days earlier, he had hit an unbeaten 85 against the ECB Blues before retiring.
Lancashire head coach Glen Chapple and his coaching team will be hoping this could be just the start for what will be a demanding season ahead.
Having had time to reflect back on 2017, Hameed is grateful to have experienced the highs and lows so early on in his fledgling career and is ready – physically and mentally, for whatever what lies ahead.
“To be honest, I have moved on from last year,” he told Sport360 on the sidelines of the club’s pre-season trip in Dubai last week.
“I have quickly learnt that things move quickly in the game and you can’t dwell too much on what’s happened in the past. I still think it’s important to take the learnings from the last two years – the highs and the lows. That will help me move forward to become a better cricketer. That’s what I’ve tried to do during the winter and I’ll do back home. Hopefully I can use this time in the middle to get me ready for the new season back home.
“Obviously, every time that you don’t score runs, it’s frustrating. But, if I can take away those experiences of what I’ve learnt, it could be a good experience for me.
“It’s true to life that not everything is plain sailing, especially in cricket. For me, it could be a blessing that I had these ups and downs early on in my career and bring about different trials and different tests in a way. If I can put those two experiences together, hopefully that will help me move forward. I’m still 21 and young and I’d like to think I’ve got a lot of cricket left inside of me but these experiences will help me become a better player. Hopefully I can draw on those for future games.”
His form in Dubai would suggest he has adopted a different approach to his batting – that once drew similarities with former England opener Geoffrey Boycott. However, that isn’t the case.
“Not really,” was Hameed’s response when asked whether he had made any technical adjustments to his game. “I haven’t changed too much. For me, personally, it’s a balance between constantly trying to improve and become a better player but also recognising what you’re good at and making sure they (the coaches) don’t change too much.
“It’s like a development plan and about making sure you are working on the right things and continuing to hone in on the skills you’re good at and keep doing those things right as well. It’s been the case for me. I’m always looking to improve and in my mind, I was a better player last year than I was two years ago. I guess for me, it’s about trying to put in the hard work and hopefully that will bear through for the season to come.”
It was just two years ago when Hameed made shockwaves for the Red Rose by becoming the youngest player to score more than 1,000 county runs in a campaign.
It will need another remarkable effort to top that tally but he is fully aware of not setting lofty ambitions for the new season.
“I guess yes and no,” he said. “You always have your targets and your goals. I also think it’s important that you don’t look too far ahead. Sometimes when you have a target in mind, you start drifting away from the present and for me it’s important that you keep the focus on each day and try to improve as a player every day.
“It’s about almost accepting that process and it can help you achieve the goals. That’s the way I’m looking at it. I’ve got goals but I’m also aware of the fact that it would require the right processes day in, day out.”
His name continues to crop up in conversations in world cricket and none more so in the last few days considering the poor form of Alastair Cook during the on-going New Zealand Test series.
There are question marks over the position of the former England captain with Hameed mentioned as a possible successor, or partner once again. But while the former Bolton School pupil sympathises with the pressure international cricketers are placed under, the only way he can press his case for a recall is by letting the bat do the talking on a consistent basis.
“It’s important to focus on the season ahead for Lancashire,” the former England Under-19 captain, who was part of the England Lions Tour to West Indies earlier this year, added.
“The way I look at it is if I can focus on what I can do and the form that I can produce, that will kind of look after itself. So, of course, England is on my mind, it’s something that I want to do and one that I want to do for a long time. But, it’s making sure I’m putting in the performances first for Lancashire and then these things will happen hopefully.”
Hameed went on to say: “For me, the way I look at it is, if I can perform the way that I know I can perform, hopefully that will propel me for the higher tests. As a sportsman, you don’t want to have (wish) bad things on anyone because I know how cruel the sport is and how difficult things is when you do go through that.
“For me, whatever happens in that team happens and I can only focus on myself and be prepared to play at the highest level.”
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