Feature

Who is England debutant Shoaib Bashir?

From Berkshire Under-18s to a Test cap, we run through the 20-year-old's remarkable rise

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
01-Feb-2024
Shoaib Bashir was named in England's XI for the second Test  •  Getty Images

Shoaib Bashir was named in England's XI for the second Test  •  Getty Images

Following confirmation that Shoaib Bashir will win his first cap when England take on India in the second Test starting at Visakhapatnam on Friday, we run through the remarkable rise of the 20-year-old Somerset spinner who only made his first-class debut in June.

So England have picked another rookie spinner?

Yes, after their success in Hyderabad with the debutant Tom Hartley and Rehan Ahmed, in his second appearance, England have picked offspinner Bashir as a direct replacement for Jack Leach - their most-experienced spinner on tour, who was ruled out through injury.

Where has Bashir sprung from?

Bashir was on few people's radar when England named him in their 16 for India back in December, ahead of the leading spinner in last year's County Championship, Liam Dawson. He has only played six first-class games, having signed for Somerset ahead of the 2023 season, and his current record is an unspectacular 10 wickets at 67.00. However, he impressed on a Lions training camp in the UAE, taking six wickets against Afghanistan A in front of Brendon McCullum and Rob Key.

He's not come the usual route then?

To say the least. Bashir was part of Surrey's pathway from Under-9s to Under-17s before being released, leading him to fear that a professional career may not materialise. But he subsequently caught the attention of Somerset playing for Berkshire Under-18s before impressing on trial and being given a contract.
Gareth Batty, the former England offspinner who is now head coach at Surrey, told ESPNcricinfo: "We didn't have many places on the professional staff. Yousef Majid, the left-arm spinner, was the guy the club went with and around that time, Bashir had a huge growth spurt, which is very difficult for young people. It can take a while to get that movement pattern comfortable again but he's obviously gone down to a very, very well-run club in Somerset, and he's thrived."

What attributes does he possess?

That growth spurt - Bashir is 6ft 4in - is one of the principle reasons he caught England's attention. Stokes spotted his potential via clips on social media after bowling to Alastair Cook on first-class debut, which he forwarded to Key and McCullum on WhatsApp.
England also used data from iHawk cameras worn by umpires on the county circuit to look beyond Bashir's raw averages. "Without sounding like an analyst, he's got one of the higher release points in the game," Key said after his selection in December.

Sounds like he's had a dream few weeks…

Well, yes, apart from the issues with his Indian visa that meant he only arrived in Hyderabad on day four of the first Test. Although born in Surrey, Bashir's parents are of Pakistani heritage and a lengthy delay saw him return to the UK following England's pre-series camp in the UAE to get final approval for his entry to India a week after the rest of the squad.

Should India be wary?

It is an enormous step up for Bashir, but England will hope he can have a similar impact to Hartley - another 6ft 4in fingerspinner - after the Lancastrian recovered from being worked over in the first innings to claim a match-winning seven-wicket haul in the second. Hartley became the third England spinner in the last 14 months to take a five-for on debut under Stokes, after Rehan and Will Jacks did so in Pakistan, and the captain's sensitive handling could be key to how quickly Bashir settles in Test whites.
"Everything's happened very quickly, in the blink of an eye, really," Bashir told Somerset's YouTube channel after signing for the club back in March. The same could be said of his impending Test debut.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick