Pakistan vs England, 2022-23 – Rehan Ahmed in line for Test debut as Ben Stokes mulls options for Karachi

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Rehan Ahmed could make his debut in the third Test against Pakistan as England eye a 3-0 clean sweep in the series.

If selected, the 18-year-old legspinning all-rounder Ahmed will become the youngest player to make his debut for the men’s team. After being included in the squad during the pre-tour camp in Abu Dhabi, he did not feature directly in the first two Tests, but was a regular substitute fielder, notably in the Rawalpindi Test, when Liam Livingstone was replaced. The injury occurred towards the end of the tour. injury.

Ahmed came close to making the XI for that first Test when the participation of left-arm spinner Jack Leach was thrown into doubt after he was affected by a virus that infected half the squad. Leach, along with the offspin of Joe Root and Will Jacks, has provided slower bowling options on two flat pitches.

However, an injury to Livingstone means Ahmed is the only wrist spinner in the team. His work in the nets continued at the National Stadium in Karachi on Thursday when he and other substitutes took a training session while those who took part in the 26-run win in Multan were given leave to rest or play golf. ,

Speaking at the team hotel on Thursday morning, Test captain Ben Stokes revealed that Ahmed was under serious consideration for the 2022 final match. Changes are expected in the XI in Karachi, with Ben Foakes set to return behind the stumps to allow Ollie Pope to focus. 3, but Stokes insisted that giving Ahmed his first cap would be a decision based on ability rather than an act of charity.

Stokes said, ‘We are thinking about it. “I and Baz can’t go into too much detail unless [Brendon McCullum] Have seen the wicket.

“When we talked about getting Rehaan in the team, it was more than just bringing him and getting him into the team. We said we had no problem picking him if we felt it was the right choice. I don’t think it’s a case, if he’s going to play, of giving the cap. We picked him in the team not only because of his talent, but because we thought it would be a good opportunity to play if we Thought it was necessary.”

A maiden international cap would cap off a successful year for Ahmed. It started with 12 wickets during the Under-19 World Cup in February when England finished runners-up to India. His first-class debut in Division Two of the County Championship came in May, and he ended the summer with a five-wicket haul and a century on debut against Derbyshire. In between, he trained with the England white-ball team during their series with India and South Africa, and played five matches for the Southern Braves in the Hundred.

Although Ahmed was not originally in the 15-man squad selected for this first series in Pakistan since 2005, his addition was not as last-minute as it seemed. The prospect was floated at the initial selection meeting with two primary takeaways: the importance of protecting Ahmed from outside pressure, particularly from the media, and head coach McCullum wanting to see and work with Ahmed before taking him on tour.

That opportunity came during training camp, and McCullum was impressed with both Ahmed’s ability and mindset. Although he did not enjoy the best of times with the ball in the England v England Lions warm-up match, conceding 73 runs in eight wicketless overs, he provided a snapshot of his grip with the bat when he scored 26 runs from 10 balls for the Lions .

He has continued to make an impression in the last few weeks. And it was instructive that, when asked what he made of the youngster, Stokes admitted he was not sure which of Ahmed’s two suits was the stronger.

“I’m struggling to find out what it is, whether it’s a batsman or a legspinner, which I think is good because it shows how much talent he has. What should we do with the bat in that summer? Can do, got a snippet of it – game summary above.

“But having a wrist spinner is always exciting, especially for England, but it doesn’t do much with his ability, because he’s only young, and you still have to nurture talent, no matter how exciting it is.” Are. “

Significantly, if Ahmed is selected, he will be the first player from a minority background to be selected under Stokes’ captaincy. All nine XIs selected so far have been exclusively white.

English cricket is currently embarking on a period of introspection around race, with Azeem Rafiq saying the game is in denial about racism during a DCMS committee hearing on Tuesday. The Cricket Disciplinary Commission will delay the hearing of racism allegations against Rafiq’s former county, Yorkshire, into the new year, as well as recommendations to the ECB from the independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) to improve equality around race, gender and class Will do

The lack of diversity around the England team is mainly a reflection of the issues down the series. Asked about the issue, Stokes said he believes cricket is an inclusive sport but admitted that Ahmed can inspire future generations.

“Whenever I am asked about it, I have always felt that cricket is an inclusive sport,” he said. “Certainly, in my time in the England team you have been selected first and foremost for your skill as a cricketer. This should still be the way forward regardless of your beliefs or what you or whatever. If you are good enough to represent this country, you will be selected.

“The players love Rehaan in particular, he can be an incredible example to young kids who want to come up. He’s probably heard what’s happened in cricket recently.” [but] She can be seen as an example of ‘No, we hope this 18-year-old’s got to be a potential superstar, why can’t I be?’ But for me English cricket has always been about if you’re good enough you’ll get picked and I don’t think it’s going to be any different going forward.”

Vithusan Anthraja is Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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