India have just won the third Test at Mohali by a convincing 8-wicket margin. The Indian dressing room is bubbling with joy. The team is minutes away from its departure from the stadium to the team hotel. In the long room of the IS Bindra Stadium, India captain Virat Kohli is seated in one corner of a sofa speaking to young Haseeb Hameed. Hameed is all ears, grasping each word of what Virat is saying. He has a few questions and Virat answers them willingly. That memory is still fresh in young Hameed’s mind. It is an encounter he would savour for the rest of his life.
“For Kohli to take time out to speak to me was special because he is probably the most sought after man in world cricket at the moment,” Hameed begins to talk about his conversation with Virat. “I know he is extremely busy and for him to take ten minutes out for me was great. I was just keen to know what his thoughts were, what his thinking is going into a game and what are his preparation routines like. He was very open and sincere with me. I found him to be extremely humble in the way he spoke. The things that we shared and the tips and advices that he gave will hold me in good stead going forward.”
“The one thing that sets Kohli apart in world cricket at the moment is his consistency,” Hameed continues. “He is the most consistent performer at the moment. For me, his mindset is what sets him apart from the other players. You see a very aggressive and passionate player on the field and that is because of his unbelievable desire to win. Off the field, he was very honest with me and I was very appreciative of that.”
Hameed is also willing to take a lot from that conversation and imbibe it in his own game. “The one thing that I found about him was that everything he does, he does it with a lot of intent and positive mindset. The way he dives around in the field, he takes his team with him. He leads by example and definitely leads with the bat as well. As soon as he walks out to bat, you know that you have a task in your hands as a fielding side. He very rarely gives his wicket away cheaply. You got to work hard for his wicket. He has got a lot of runs this year and this series so we found that difficult as a side. He is an amazing player and probably at the top of his game at the moment. It was great to see someone who will go down in history as a special player in my very first tour. I gathered a lot from that. Watching him play and observing him on the field was great. I am sure it will hold me in good stead going forward.”
At just 19 years of age, he is England’s youngest Test opener, one the most talked about upcoming talents in the world and receiving appreciation from all quarters. For young Hameed, all of this feels like a dream. “It definitely feels like a dream,” he agrees. “Things have happened very quickly for me. I had my full season for Lancashire back home in England and it was amazing to get an England call up at the end of it. Not only that; to make my debut in my parents’ home state in Gujarat was very special for me. I am thankful it went the way it did. I have been really lucky to get support from both sets of fans. I am really grateful for that. I came here knowing that India is a very special place for me to come to and it finds a special place in my heart in that sense. This tour has been amazing and I take back a lot back home.”
What stood out was Hameed’s character. He walked out to bat for his team with a broken finger and remained unbeaten on 59 in England’s second innings in Mohali. Such character received appreciation from Virat and the Indian team alike. Hameed will be out of action for six to seven weeks, days that he agrees are going to be agonizing. He vowed to come back strong, especially taking back nothing but good memories out of India. “I flew back home to England and had my surgery done. I have comeback just to watch the last two Test matches. I will be out of action for six to seven weeks, which I am hoping will go fast. It would be the longest that I have spent without a cricket bat in my hands.
“It has been a great tour for me and I have taken a lot of learning and experiences. I have grown in confidence as well coming up against the best side in the world. For people to come out and say very humbling and kind words has been great for me. I hope that I can work even harder and make sure I get back to this level and hopefully perform better.”