Monday, September 11, 2017

Now the papers are talking up a 13-year-old England cricket prospect

Like chess prodigies, England spin prospects get younger and younger.

A few days ago the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and The Times got excited about 13-year-old Rehan Ahmed.

Here is Elizabeth Ammon in The Times:
Rehan Ahmed is considered such an outstanding prospect that he has now bowled at England batsmen two years in a row. Ahmed, who is attached to Nottinghamshire and has already played for their under-17s, also helped England’s batsmen before the Lord’s Test against Pakistan last year, when he bowled Ben Stokes in the nets. 
Yesterday he was back among the finest Test players in England, holding his own comfortably. His father, Naeem, who took his son to a trial at Nottinghamshire at the age of eight, told Cricinfo: "Mushtaq Ahmed [the former England spin bowling coach] was just walking past the nets last summer and when he saw Rehan bowl, he stopped in his tracks. He came to watch and was obviously very impressed." 
England hope Ahmed will develop into a top-class professional. 
I wish him well, but a growth spurt can do terrible things to a young leg spinner.

Take the experience of the former England captain Nasser Hussain:
At eight, he was bowling leg-breaks for Essex Schools Under-11s, and at 12 for their Under-15s. Born five days apart, Hussain and Mike Atherton soon found their careers progressing in parallel as they captained, batted and bowled legspin for England age-group teams, while also passing enough exams to go to a leading university. 
In his mid-teens, however, Hussain "grew a foot in a winter" and the trajectory of his bowling was altered: "I went from bowling out Graham Gooch in the indoor school with everyone watching to hitting the roof or bowling triple-bouncers in deadly silence." 
His father remembers him crying in bed at the loss of his legbreak; the son felt he was letting his father down. He was also anxious not to be left behind by his peers, boys like Atherton, Trevor Ward, Martin Bicknell and Chris Lewis. So he made himself into a batsman, moving up the order from tail-end to opening or No. 3, and becoming the first boy at Forest to score 1000 runs in a season since 1901. 
Vestiges of this manufacturing process remain in his technique: he bats with little left elbow and plenty of bottom hand, and backs up with the bat in his right hand (not that Duncan Fletcher minds). In general, his runs seem to be scored as much by an exceptional effort of will as through natural talent.

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