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England's Test Tour Of India 2024: Shoaib Bashir's Maiden Call-Up In ENG Cricket Squad A Story Of Tears, Hard Work And Glory

English selectors have picked 20-year-old Somerset off-spinner Shoaib Bashir in the Test squad for the 2024 India tour out of nowhere. His coach Siddhartha Lahiri said the youngster's unadulterated love for bowling sets him apart from the rest

Shoaib Bashir (L) in action for Somerset in county cricket.
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Before his glory moment of inclusion in England's Test squad to tour India, Shoaib Bashir's journey was filled with rejection, tears and countless hours of hard work to finetune his skills. (Cricket News)

The 20-year-old rookie off-spinner from Somerset has been the star of the town after England selectors picked him out of nowhere into the senior side on Tuesday.

While the whole cricketing world rejoices over another ‘wonder-kid’ story, in a faraway corner Siddhartha Lahiri, who coached Bashir since he was 10, offered a smile of satisfaction.

"A fantastic opportunity for him. Even if he does not get to play India, you know, being around seniors on an important tour will do him a world of good.

"I am sure not many would have thought of him playing Test cricket a few years ago when he was struggling to land a team in age-group cricket," Lahiri, who heads the Royals Academy in Surrey, told PTI.

Lahiri first came across Bashir as a 10-year-old aspiring cricketer in the Royals Academy at the Reeding School and was immediately impressed by his desire to excel in cricket.

"This lad was different because sometimes we tend to forget to enjoy the game, getting caught up in external matters like team selection, competition from other players etc.

"But Shoaib just loved to bowl. With his eyes closed, he could land the ball where he wanted it to land. He will come to the academy around 5 PM and after doing his homework he will head to nets straightaway wheeling away for the rest of the evening."

Lahiri said they run a specialised training method in the academy for the budding cricketers and Bashir eagerly lapped it up.

"We call it the Variable Volume Practice, where bowlers bowl at junior, same age-group and senior players. But not even for once Shoaib complained that a player is too weak or strong for him.

"He just worked on his action, focused on getting more consistent with his lines and lengths,” he added.

Lahiri felt that it has something to do with Bashir’s grounded upbringing, being part of an understanding family, which migrated from Pakistan to England a while ago.

"See, in England the state school kids will not get as much sporting exposure as the kids from private schools. Shoaib has seen a lot of difficulty as a child, and saw how his parents and uncle worked hard to make his dream a reality.

"His uncle – Sajid – is a big influence on him. His mother used to come to the academy and sit and watch him for hours. They put all the eggs in one basket, and they are getting the results now.

"I had spoken to Saj after his selection and he was crying, all of them were emotional. Saj used to take him around the circuit to play club cricket and other age-group cricket," he explained.

However, there Bashir had to ward off hardships on the field too as Surrey did not include him in their under-16 programme.

Lahiri said those days were tough on the young cricketer.

"At 16, he was struggling to find a place in the county programme after Surrey did not offer him a contract, and generally cricketers found it tough going forward in England if they didn't get a contract by that time.

"But then the family took him around to play in minor counties and as it happened, he got a chance to play at Somerset junior programme, where he got a chance to bowl at players like Alastair Cook at nets whenever teams like Essex came around. It was a massive learning curve for him," he detailed.

There is this video in the Somerset County Cricket Club’s website in which Bashir floats the ball above the eyeline of a batter to eventually castle him with a vicious turner.

It came as no surprise to hear spin sorcerer Shane Warne's influence on that delivery.

Lahiri narrated the fascinating story of the legendary Australian leg-spinner’s interaction with a wide-eyed aspiring cricketer.

"Warnie came to inaugurate the Royals academy. We were told that Warnie would be around for some 10-15 mins and naturally the spinners in the academy were excited.

But once his session started with the kids, it went on three hours and 15 minutes, far exceeding the scheduled 15 minutes.

"He took a special note of Shoaib. Warnie told him to first learn how to turn the ball. Spinners can’t be fast bowlers. Earlier, Shoaib used to bowl a bit flat but Warnie’s interaction changed all that. He began to learn more about how to put revs on the ball and turn it," said Lahiri.

That has turned his career around too!

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