Haseeb Hameed’s 15-minute treasure

England opener speaks about takeaways from the Virat Kohli encounter, a moment he will savour for life

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.”

Virat is Hameed’s ‘modern day’ idol as he puts it. From being an admirer to playing against him, Hameed’s dream has gone one notch higher. For him to observe Virat from close quarters and watch him bat, did leave him a bit in awe. “I tried not to be in awe of him when he walked out to bat, but I am not too sure if it came across that way,” he laughs. “Everyone knows that he is someone that I look up to a lot. He is my modern-day role model along with Joe Root. I had one playing alongside me and the other against me. It was quite special for me in that sense. I try not to think too much about it. On the field, you are always trying to be competitive as everyone should. I was just concentrating on that. But it was very nice to meet Virat and see him say the very kind words that he did.”

“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.”

Anand Subramaniam
Anand Subramaniam

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When Jadeja’s perseverance bore fruit

Ravindra Jadeja speaks about his tireless four-wicket haul at the end of day 2 of the fourth Test

There are certain angles that only Ravindra Jadeja can create. Be it angling the ball into the left-hander or taking it away from the right-hander. If need be, he can even go round arm. One thing that is constant when he is doing all this is discipline. On a long tiring bowling day on Day 1 at the Wankhede stadium, Jadeja kept one end tight putting a cap on the English run flow. Even as Ravichandran Ashwin chipped away wickets at sundry from the other end, a lot of credit had to be given to Jadeja’s relentless bowling display. Not to forget it was him who got India the first breakthrough of the morning with Alastair Cook being stumped for 46, a little while before Lunch.

Cook’s dismissal was well thought of explains Jadeja. “While bowling to Cook, I made it a point to bowl to his fourth or fifth stump because there was some rough that aided spin. I bowled there consistently and expected things to happen from there. That is exactly what happened and Cook charged and the ball spun off the rough and was stumped,” Jadeja told
BCCI.TV after his 4-wicket haul on Day 2.

Cook’s dismissal plotting is just a small case in point. Jadeja is a thinking bowler. Even if he is not amongst the wickets and bowling tight lines from the other end, there is a mind of his own that is constantly planning on ways to get the batsman out. No wickets through the day, it didn’t matter. Jadeja was just willing to bowl and give it all. For him, long spells were more than welcome.

“There are times when you bowl long spells; you get into a good rhythm,” he says. “You tend to realise what are the areas you need to bowl at and understand the pitch better. As a bowling unit, we didn’t want to give away easy boundaries even if we weren’t successful to get a breakthrough. The idea was to bowl maidens and restrict the runs as much as possible. In a way, because of the bounce in the wicket, the batsmen could score easily. Control and line and length was important.

“I am used to bowling long spells and it is never a problem for me. I am more than happy and ready to keep bowling from one end. I have self belief. If I don’t get a wicket for 30 overs, I am sure I will get a wicket each in over number 31, 32 and 33. That is what I try to do every time I walk out to bowl - carry that self belief in me and assure myself of taking wickets.”

If he managed just one wicket on Day 1, he added three more to his tally on Day 2. Understanding the nature of the pitch and bowling according to it was the key according to Jadeja. “It was important to identify areas on the pitch where you could purchase some turn. Once you had done that it was important to be disciplined and land the ball in the same area consistently. There was something in the pitch for the spinners right from day 1. Not every delivery would turn but there were a few areas on the pitch from where the ball would turn. Me and Ashwin decided to be patient and were ready to bowl long spells. Jayant Yadav chipped in with tight lines as well. Overall all the spinners bowled well and there was good communication between us.

“There was more spin on day 2. For example, if two or three balls would turn in three or four overs on day 1, there were more deliveries that spun today in fewer overs. The spin percentage increased. As the game progresses, there will be more spin for the bowlers. It is a great feeling to get a 4-wicket haul. I feel I am bowling well at this point of time,” he signed off.

Anand Subramaniam
Anand Subramaniam

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