Haseeb Hameed’s defensive approach may have been earned him the nickname ‘baby Boycott’ when he first played Test cricket, but the new England Lions captain is eager to embrace the national side’s new attacking philosophy.
Hameed was just 19 when he first opened the batting for his country in 2016, earning rave reviews for his solid technique and measured approach, as well as a playful comparison to the famously cautious Sir Geoffrey Boycott.
Injury followed by a dramatic loss of form stalled his big break and a lean Ashes series last winter cut short his hard-earned comeback after five years in the cold.
England’s radical shift in approach under Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum last summer could easily have pushed Hameed even further from the reckoning, considering the duo’s demand for aggressive, pro-active play.
The old Hameed would surely have struggled to catch the eye of the new regime, but he was having a similar revelation of his own after his struggles in Australia, opening up his style and becoming a more expansive presence.
Not only did he hit four centuries and average 58 for Nottinghamshire in 2022, he did so at a strike-rate of 62.40 – well beyond his career mark of 41.59 and almost double the 32.02 he scored at in his 10 Test caps.
Hameed, who turns 26 on Tuesday, has now been asked to lead the second-strong Lions in next month’s red-ball series against Sri Lanka A and will be eager to showcase his suitability for the ‘Bazball’ era.
“I came back from that Australia tour and was clear how I was going to go about my game: look to score runs at every opportunity and accept the fact that everyone gets out,” he said of his new outlook.
“We (England) went into our shells a bit. We got a bit defensive, a bit ‘survival mode’ and as a result we all suffered. Now it’s almost like, if in doubt you take the other option, you try and put the pressure back on them. You take the positive option and you’ll be backed for it.
“That’s a key change in our cricket system in general. The interesting thing for me is it coincides with a similar shift that I’ve made at a similar time. You have your typical Test match opener, which is what I was trying to play like before, but there is also a side of me – which maybe a few more people have seen now – which takes me back to my junior days…a side that enjoys hitting the ball.
“Especially against some of the best bowlers in the world you’re going to face good balls that will get you out, so the other balls you may as well try to cash in, score runs and put the opposition under pressure – which is what I’ve tried to do. I took that into the season with Notts and it was a good season for me.”
With more focus on enjoyment and less on mere survival, Hameed is eager for another crack in the Test arena. Australia, tantalisingly, await again this summer.
“The way I look at things, I had one bad tour,” he said.
“But a lot of very, very good players have had one bad tour. Why can’t I get better? It’s happened, but it’s not the complete journey. I’m not 35, 36, Inshallah I’ve got another 15 years of cricket left in me. I’m hoping a long period of that is playing international cricket for England, that has never changed.”
First, though, he has the chance to flex his captaincy muscles on the sub-continent.
“I’ll have my own style of course, but the brand that Stokesy and Co have implemented is now the England brand, whether you’re with the Lions or the Test side,” he said.
“This whole idea of playing to win and being prepared to lose the game in order to win, 100 per cent I’ll try to replicate that.”