Ind vs Eng, Test series – Shoaib Bashir ‘let emotions fall out’ after shock England call-up

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Shoaib Bashir admitted he cried after receiving the call informing him of his selection for England men’s Test series against India.

The Somerset offspinner was a shock inclusion in the 16-man squad just six months after making his professional debut. Bashir has just six first-class matches to his name, all for Somerset, with 10 wickets at an average of 67.

He was selected on a Lions training camp in the UAE as one of seven spinners and impressed throughout on surfaces created to replicate what is likely to await England in India. He capped off the three weeks with 6 for 42 in a two-innings match against Afghanistan A, leaving an impression on Test coach Brendon McCullum and managing director Rob Key who travelled over to run the rule over potential spin options for the Test squad.

“You (could) see that there’s something different there, or that looks special,” explained Key on the punt taken to select Bashir. It was McCullum who phoned the 20-year-old with the good news. While Bashir sensed he had performed well on the Lions tour in front of the right people, he was overcome with emotion when told he had made the cut for the five-match series in the New Year.

“When I got the call, I let my emotions fall out,” Bashir told BBC Radio Somerset. “I was very numb inside – I cried. It’s just so special and I’m so grateful and thankful for the opportunity I’ve been given.

“I’m very grateful. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do since I started playing cricket, since I started holding a bat, since I started bowling a ball – I wanted to represent my country. For this to happen at such an early part in my career is very special.

“I think they were keeping a close eye on me since I made my debut. In Abu Dhabi they saw what I could do on a different surface to England, more for India. I felt like I showed a good representation of what I can do as well. I think that’s what caught the eye.”

Bashir’s route to international recognition has not been straightforward or guaranteed. He had been part of the Surrey pathway since Under-9 level before being released almost a decade later, trialling briefly at Middlesex before stabilising himself at Berkshire.

It was for Berkshire’s Under-18s that he first came up on Somerset’s radar, taking 5 for 26 in a 50-over semi-final against them. He was subsequently offered a two-match trial in their second team – the first locally against Surrey at Guildford, where he lives, taking 3 for 51 in a rain-affected game. He then took 4 for 44 against Warwickshire which led to his first professional contract.

He came to prominence on his first-class debut against Essex this summer when his maiden over featured two deliveries that beat Sir Alastair Cook. Though he would only end up averaging a wicket an innings in Division One of the County Championship, there was clear promise. Watching on from afar, selectors were enticed by traits they sought for Indian pitches – specifically, Bashir’s high release-point from a 6’4″ frame, driving the ball into the surface without compromising on turn or flight.

“My journey has been very special,” Bashir said. “Everyone has their own journeys but I feel like my journey is for me. My journey started from when I was in the Surrey pathway from U9s to U17s when I got released. It was probably the rock bottom of my career. I didn’t think I’d be playing at any kind of level at that point.

“Thankfully I joined Berkshire, minor counties team, and actually really enjoyed my time there. I met some of my closest mates, to this day, and I think when you enjoy playing cricket, you put in performances.

“Looking back now, it’s just so special. For any young kids out there, just work hard, and if you really want something, you put in the time, things will happen.”

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo

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