Teen backs odds to reach the top
IT’S not just the fact that Pakistani fast bowler Naseem Shah is 16 that makes his Test debut at the Gabba today one of the most remarkable cricket stories of the modern era.
It’s also that his local district, Lower Dir, has, according to him, no proper pitches or cricket facilities, that only two years ago he did not even own a pair of spikes, and that his father tried to talk him out of playing cricket at all.
Then there’s the fact that since he first became aware of cricket, Pakistan has not even hosted a Test match, given it has been a no-go zone for the five-day game since the Lahore bombing of 2009.
So there was every reason why this robust-looking youngster from Pakistan’s wild north-west frontier land should have been one of countless “coulda-been” champions’ lost in a chaotic system through no fault of their own.
Yet somehow, miraculously, Naseem Shah will play a Test at the age of 16 years, 277 days — the youngest player ever to play a Test in Australia.
It’s a beautiful moment for the game, with his teammates marvelling at the courage Naseem displayed to bowl a withering spell against Australia A last week, just 24 hours after being informed that his mother had died.
Anti-corruption officials gave Pakistan permission to waive the strict rules regarding mobile phones in dressing rooms to allow Naseem to ring his brothers, who urged him to stay with the team and do a little job for his country.
“We are definitely looking to play him — he is bowling really well,’’ Pakistan captain Azhar Ali said. “Not many players can be at that standard early, but he is one of them.’’
YOUNG GUN: Pakistan’s Naseem Shah is making his Test debut today.