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Naseem Shah: High Expectations from the young Pakistan fast bowler

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Naseem Shah’s inclusion has undoubtedly raised a few eyebrows, especially during a tough tour against the mighty Australians. He has shown a lot of promise in his recent performance against Australia A, but he is only at the beginning of his international career, and with a lot of hype, the young quick has a lot on his shoulders.

It has been several years since the Pakistan cricket team has been given that ‘unpredictable’ tag. Cricket fans around the world can expect anything from a flawless to an abysmal performance from them on the same day. Despite the inconsistencies, Pakistan cricket has always been consistent in one regard, which is the production of talented fast bowlers, often revered by fans and dreaded by batsmen.
Yet, their inconsistencies continue with their odd and often out-of-the-blue selection policies. The prime example being the inclusion of young Naseem Shah in the team for the Australia tour.
Any discussion on fast bowling though would be incomplete without the mention of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, both among the list of the greatest cricketers of all time. In their day, commonly known as the ‘two W’s,’ they took the art of fast bowling and reverse swing to new heights while wreaking havoc on opposing batsmen with sheer skill and aggression. They may be amongst the greatest of the greatest, but the story of how they got picked for the team, as young kids, is not too different from that of Naseem Shah.
Any discussion on fast bowling though would be incomplete without the mention of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, both among the list of the greatest cricketers of all time. In their day, commonly known as the ‘two W’s,’ they took the art of fast bowling and reverse swing to new heights while wreaking havoc on opposing batsmen with sheer skill and aggression. They may be amongst the greatest of the greatest, but the story of how they got picked for the team, as young kids, is not too different from that of Naseem Shah.
Naseem Shah, Pakistan cricket bowler, walking up to bowl
In the early ’80s, Wasim Akram was an unknown club cricketer. He was invited to bowl at the practice net sessions organized for the Pakistan Cricket team at the Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore. When he started bowling, his skill caught the eye of the great, Imran Khan, captain of the team at the time. Khan had this gift, some may call it a cricketing sixth sense to judge talent, and in Wasim, he saw something special.

The curious case of Usman Qadir. Read here.

Similarly, another unknown club cricketer from Lahore was selected to play for Pakistan, Waqar Younis. Once again, Imran Khan saw Younis bowling on TV in a local tournament. Impressed by what he saw, Khan located Waqar through his contacts, and just like that, a bowler who had only played a handful of first-class matches was picked for the Pakistan national team. As for Naseem Shah, we are 20 years too early when it comes to making comparisons, but his initial story is not too different from the greats.
Naseem Shah, like the two greats before him, has seven first-class matches under his belt. His inclusion has undoubtedly raised a few eyebrows, especially during a tough tour against the mighty Australians. Perhaps, it is that Misbah Ul Haq might be trying to pull off what Imran Khan did all those years ago. After all, he now has Imran Khan’s backing and support, as well.
It is clear that the PCB has backed Misbah, and they might be aiming to repeat history as the 16-year-old, Naseem Shah, is poised to make his debut against Australia in the 1st test of the tour at the Gabba.
He has shown a lot of promise in his recent performance against Australia A, but he is only at the beginning of his international career, and with a lot of hype, the young quick has a lot on his shoulders.

Naseem may be too young to handle the humiliation and fade away into oblivion, as many cricketers have.

He does, of course, have the services of the great Waqar Younis as bowling coach, who must be vicariously reliving his young years through Naseem as a raw fast bowler selected to play for Pakistan out-of-the-blue.
However, it would be too naïve to assume that a 16-year-old is going to blow away the Australian team, who have hours and overs of experience and possess a fast bowling battery that is ferocious and very successful at the international level.
To hinge the triumph of the team on a teenager is too big of an ask but that being said, if he does perform well, Naseem Shah is going to become a hero, and if he receives a thrashing at the hands of the Aussies, he may be too young to handle the humiliation and fade away into oblivion, as many cricketers have.
But there is always hope when it comes to this pack of ‘unpredictables,’ and Naseem may pull off something special etching his name alongside the greats before him. We will have to wait and see.

Hassaan Shahid is a sports fan and regularly plays cricket in local tournaments in Queensland, Australia. He follows Esports and football very closely too. You can follow him on Instagram.
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