Blodding Lancashire’s teenage opening batsman Haseeb Hameed during England’s tours to Bangladesh and India this winter could go either way.
Head coach Trevor Bayliss has hinted at a call-up and the 19-year-old is clearly talented, having scored more than 1,000 first-class runs during his first full domestic season. The selectors will have watched him and spoken to Lancashire’s director of cricket Ashley Giles to see whether he thinks he can cut it at Test level.
Although it would be a massive step to go from under-19 cricket to a year in county cricket and then straight into the England side, some youngsters are so confident they score runs from ball one. England vice-captain Joe Root was only 21 when he made his debut in Nagpur in 2012.
If things don’t quite happen early in a Test career then it can be difficult and players end up going back to their counties and putting more pressure and expectation on themselves; they do not play with the same free spirit as they did before.
Take someone like James Vince, who was drastically short of Test runs this summer and is a candidate to be dropped this winter. He’s back playing for Hampshire now but England will be at the back of his mind and he won’t be playing with the same freedom as did before, and that could be quite negative for someone of Hameed’s age.
Having said that, the subcontinent is a good place to blood batsmen – both skipper Alastair Cook and Root started in India – as the new ball doesn’t do a great deal, there is not a huge amount of swing, and it won’t be bouncing around at head height.
Daunting dressing room
I also think the system is better now should a player not make the grade first time around. I think back to Chris Schofield, another Lancashire player at the time, who was awarded one of the central contracts handed out in the first batch but didn’t ever seem to fully recover from being dropped by England after two Tests against Zimbabwe in 2000.
He would probably have been sent back to Old Trafford and left to his own devices without a word of communication from the selectors, whereas someone like Vince probably knows exactly where he stands.
When I was 19, it would have been pretty daunting to walk into a dressing room with the likes of Alec Stewart and Mark Butcher in there. While Hameed is likely to hold someone like Cook in the highest regard, the whole England set up these days seems far more relaxed and less intimidating for a youngster to be plunged into.