Shan Masood, the erudite Pakistan batsman, said Naseem’s courage had inspired the team and he hoped his commitment to the cause was rewarded with a Test debut at the Gabba, a surface he should love given his 145km/h speed and ability to reverse the older ball.
“After the sad loss of his mother, it took great guts and we should appreciate what he did, stepping out in the second innings at the Optus and he produced a really good spell,” Shan said.
“Losing a parent is irreplaceable. The guts and courage he showed to step out on the field again, do it for his family and his mother and his team and his country, that was commendable. A 16-year-old being that mature … if you only talk about how well he is doing in cricket, that’s already a lot of maturity.
“But losing his mother and still stepping out on the field, at the other end of the world and not going back, staying here and putting his hand up for the team, that’s commendable. I think that is going to reward him, that sort of attitude.
“As a team, we are trying to stick behind him. All we can do is offer our prayers and support … We’re all very happy with how he’s responded and hopefully he’s going to be a star in the making.”
Youngest Test debutants against Australia
- Harbhajan Singh 17y 265d, India v Australia, Bengaluru, March 25, 1998
- Intikhab Alam 17y 341d, Pakistan v Australia, Karachi, December 4, 1959
- AG Milkha Singh 18y 13d, India v Australia, Chennai, January 13, 1960
- Majid Khan 18y 26d, Pakistan v Australia, Karachi, October 24, 1964
Pakistan Cricket Board chief executive Wasim Khan said Naseem had been given the opportunity to return home but the timing, as well as a desire to fulfil his family’s wishes for his career, saw him remain with the team.
“We spoke to him about actually going home. But in terms of the Muslim religion, we bury very quickly, within 24 hours of somebody passing away. His mum passed away I think on the Tuesday of last week, and it would have taken him two days to get home,” Wasim said.
“He spoke to his family and they said ‘this is where your mum would have wanted you to be’. He’s had a lot of support around him, with Waqar [Younis] and Misbah [Ul-Haq]. Everyone has rallied around him, keeping a close eye on him, making sure he’s OK.
“He’s got a few confidantes in the team that he can go to if he’s feeling low or not feeling great. He wanted to stick it out.”
Even for Pakistan, Naseem’s rise has been spectacular. He has played just six first-class matches since getting a start for Lahore last September. By the end of them, he had snared 26 wickets at 16.50 on pitches that Shan said were hardly of great assistance to the young firebrand.
“This season has been my first experience of seeing Naseem Shah as a bowler. It’s very exciting seeing a 16-year-old come to the fore and really take the domestic circuit by surprise. The pitches were quite docile and Naseem Shah was a standout,” Shan said.
Whether Naseem can be effective across four or five days of hard cricket, not just in short bursts, remains to be seen. But if he can rattle some of the Australian top order in Brisbane, we might just see the birth of a Pakistan pace star in the tradition of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar.
Youngest Test debutants in Australia
- Ian Craig 17y 239d, Australia v South Africa, Melbourne, February 6, 1953
- Tom Garrett 18y 232d, Australia v England, Melbourne, March 15, 1877
- Mohammad Ilyas 18y 260d, Pakistan v Australia, Melbourne, December 4, 1964
- Saleem Elahi 18y 353d, Pakistan v Australia, Brisbane, November 9, 1995
Chris Barrett is Sports Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.