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A look at some of the most exciting teenage cricketers in the UK and Ireland
June 11, 2014
Hearing about the new kid. There's nothing quite like it. As fans we're always looking to a better tomorrow, when it never rains, no one cheats and your precious team never bottles it at the last. And nothing encapsulates that heady mix of tingly, limitless possibility quite like that moment when the next big thing emerges, formidably fresh-faced, to first strut their stuff. They will make us happy, for shared glory will be ours: the records that'll fall, the World Cups that we'll win, the open-top bus parades through Trafalgar Square... what a life we'll have together.
Okay, so it doesn't always work out like that. Not all of the following - a selection from a list of 35 compiled with the help of some of the best-informed judges of youth cricket around - will become household names. But you can guarantee that a few at least will become the Test stars of the future. We shall see. Identifying an early runner and backing them all the way to the line is one of the sweetest kicks that sport can offer. It's in that very spirit that we present the finest teen cricketers in the land.
From playing for Australia Under-19s as a 16-year-old to making your Warwickshire debut at 18 in place of Ian Bell, you seem to deal in emphatic steps up. How have you dealt with that constant push and promotion, not just on the field, but off it?
It's a tough question. I think, growing up, I've always enjoyed my cricket and played it because it's been fun. When I signed for Warwickshire, I just wanted to keep the enjoyment in it, because being away from home would become hard if I lost that enjoyment. As for the hype, to be honest I don't really read much into it. I've still got a lot to prove.
You first came to the UK in 2010 to play for Loretto School in Edinburgh and you've been back and forth ever since.
It all started at 14. Mike Powell, the director of cricket at the school, sent me down to Warwickshire for a week and they asked me to come back the next year, so I did and played a bit of Second XI cricket for three months. I thought that would be it but then, at the end of that, they said they wanted to offer me a contract and I couldn't believe it. I've always played cricket just on a Saturday, but now it's going to be a job. I wanted to finish school first - keep mum happy! - and then come over. They said that was all good, and last year was my first on the books.
Did the thought of a rookie or full-time contract with Queensland not cross your mind?
Playing the age-groups and grade cricket over there, it was obviously on my mind and I was weighing it up. The seasons are different and, to be honest, it was a game of chance. I didn't really know if I was going to get signed on at Queensland so when the opportunity came to play in England, having spent a few months a year here and really enjoyed it, I took it with both hands. I'm really happy with the decision I've made - my cricket has grown, and I feel as a person I've grown as well.
Your mindset sounds a bit surprising given how much faith Queensland put in you. From the outside, it looked like a contract proper was in the offing.
I know what you mean, but you never really know with professional cricket; you can do your best, score a few runs, but you never know what they're thinking. Obviously I had inklings about getting signed but I genuinely didn't really know. Looking back now, maybe I would have been signed but I didn't have the full guarantee, whereas with Warwickshire I had a contract down and security. There are a ridiculous number of good players in Queensland so it's really hard to put your finger on whether you'll get picked up or not. I had to think clearly about it. Something good was on the table here and I was happy to sign and take the opportunity with both hands.
Was there anything like that in your first-class debut against Middlesex?
Not really. A few of the guys knew it was my debut and they may have mentioned that but, as soon as I got off the mark, it was weird. They sort of did their own thing and that was that. It was comforting. I mean, I know with Steven Finn and bowlers like that, it could have been interesting times. I was just head down, marking centre and getting ready to face.
How much warning were you given to prepare for that game?
About a week. I was a little bit hesitant initially. I didn't know if I was ready for first-class cricket. Then, going out there, I really felt good. It didn't feel too different, just that the bowlers are more skilful and will set plans to work you out. It just moved along at a higher pace.
So, the big question: England or Australia?
It's a tough one. I was talking to Sam Robson the other day and, you know, you grow up in Australia, you play there most of your life and then you move country and strive to play for them. It is a weird question but it's safe to say I want to play for England. It's where I want to be and where I want to play my cricket.
ROLE: Right-hand top-order bat; leg-spin bowler
WHAT HE'S ABOUT: Captain of England under 17s, Hameed is described as "probably as good a player as we've had for a generation" by Lancashire's academy director John Stanworth. Slight of frame and not especially tall, he is currently studying for his A-Levels at Bolton School but has already represented Lancashire's Second XI and England under 19s, scoring 67 against Bangladesh in an ODI last summer.
Haseeb HameedAGE: 17
"We've had the academy in existence since 2001 and before that we had a significant array of batting talent like Atherton and Crawley, to name but two," says Stanworth, "but Haseeb excites me as a young batsman and that's quite a powerful emotion to have about a young player. He's not got carried away with the praise that's come his way, and his humility with the talent that he has is quite evident." Hameed has signed a scholarship contract with Lancashire and will play Second XI cricket this season once he has completed his exams. Part-time leg-spin is another useful string to his bow.
BEST MOMENT: Scored a century in only his second appearance for Lancashire's Second XI, against a Scotland A side featuring several full internationals.
ROLE: Left-hand bat; right-arm medium-fast
Will RhodesAGE: 19
ROLE: Left-hand batsman, left-arm orthodox spin
WHAT HE'S ABOUT: A cultured left-handed strokemaker with a penchant for flair, the word around Wantage Road is that they have a gem on their hands. Senior players and coaches are wowed by his ability to hit both sides of the wicket, off either foot. With academy coach Phil Rowe, he's working on setting up plans to influence matches, depending on surface or situation, while maintaining his undoubted charisma. While he bowls a bit of left-arm orthodox, it is his batting that has people in a daze. "In terms of skill, he's as good as I've seen at that age," says Rowe.
BEST MOMENT: In his debut innings for the Northants First XI against Durham MCCU this year, Zaib couldn't help himself and was caught on the boundary for 19. But in the second, he invested in his innings, batting low-risk for 75 balls to register his maiden first-class half-century.
Saif ZaibAGE: 16
This is an extract from All Out Cricket magazine's "Best 35 Teens" article. To get a taste of the current issue featuring Jon Hotten's brilliant interview with Alastair Cook, click here
© All Out Cricket
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