Pakistan set to unleash 16-year-old Naseem Shah on Australia

Pakistan's 16-year-old paceman Naseem Shah tosses the ball during a training session at Gabba in Brisbane on November 20, 2019, ahead of the first cricket Test match against Australia. (AFP)
Updated 20 November 2019

Pakistan set to unleash 16-year-old Naseem Shah on Australia

  • Naseem got plenty of attention in a tour game in Perth last week
  • Five former Pakistan players have made test debuts at a younger age than Naseem

BRISBANE, Australia: Sixteen-year-old Naseem Shah is ready to become the youngest test cricketer ever to play on Australian soil, with Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali confident the young paceman is among a group of bowlers who can help end a long winless streak Down Under.
Naseem, born on Feb. 15, 2003, got plenty of attention in a tour game in Perth last week not only because he tested the resolve of some experienced international batsmen, but also because it came soon after the death of his mother back in Pakistan.
Flight logistics and religious customs meant he couldn’t make it home in time for the funeral, so he stayed in Australia and skipped the first innings of the drawn tour game against Australia A before returning with a fiery eight overs in the second innings that netted 1-21, including the wicket of test opener Marcus Harris. It set him up for a test debut in the two-match test series.
“Obviously, it was a hard time for him but he coped with it and he came out and bowled the very next day, which is very heartening,” Azhar said Wednesday, on the eve of the first test at the Gabba. “We will definitely be looking to play him. He’s bowling really well.”
Azhar has played with Naseem at first-class level and thinks the young speedster has the fitness and the mental attitude to cope in the test arena. And he’s not concerned about the home team’s daunting record at the Gabba, where Australia is unbeaten since 1988.
“Not many players can reach (test) standard so early, but there are exceptions and he’s one of them,” Azhar said. “When I saw him first, I was so surprised. The control he had, the pace he had, and the temperament and the composure when he bowls is so exciting to see.”
Five former Pakistan players have made test debuts at a younger age than Naseem, including fast bowler Aaqib Javed, who was 16 years, 189 days when he played New Zealand in 1989, and Azhar said there’s no reason to hold players back based only on their age.
“The good thing about (Naseem) is he is very fit. I have no doubts about his fitness and his bowling skill,” Azhar said, reflecting his general confidence in a Pakistan team that is in a rebuilding phase and not expected to be overawed by Australia’s record at the Gabba. Pakistan hasn’t won a test series in Australia, and hasn’t won a test match here since 1995.
“We go in here with a lot of confidence. We have the talent to do well here. We’re very confident that if we execute our skills ... (we can) beat Australia. To do that, I think we have to keep believing and also play with no fear.”
Along with veteran paceman Mohammad Abbas, a pair of 19-year-old pacemen are also in selection calculations, with left-armer Shaheen Shah Afridi taking 12 wickets in his three tests to date and Muhammad Musa yet to make his debut.
While most of the selection focus has been on the fast bowlers, 33-year-old wrist spinner Yasir Shah is likely to play an influential role in the series. He struggled on his last tour to Australia in 2016, but returns with more than 200 test wickets and as a far better settled bowler.
The Australians will be playing a test series for the first time since retaining the Ashes in England, where opening batsman David Warner averaged just 9.5 in the series. He and Steve Smith were making their test match returns from one-year ban following a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in 2018 and had contrasting series, with Smith topping the scoring and holding many innings together for Australia.
Warner will be combining with a recalled Joe Burns at the top of a reshuffled batting order, and Australia skipper Tim Paine is confident the veteran opener will be back in scoring form.
“Just watching him the last few days, he looks like he’s back to his best, the ball’s making a different sound off his bat again,” he said. “But the most pleasing thing about Davey was during the Ashes when he was in the worst form of his career he didn’t change a bit, and a lot of players would.
Paine said Mitchell Starc was back approaching top form and he expected the left-arm paceman to play a leading role against Pakistan after missing selection for all but one of the Ashes series tests in England.
Starc and fellow pacemen Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood will join spinner Nathan Lyon in a pace attack containing plenty of success in local conditions.


Kimmich: Bayern need to stay ‘hungry’ for Champions League bid

Updated 09 July 2020

Kimmich: Bayern need to stay ‘hungry’ for Champions League bid

  • Under head coach Flick, Bayern have won all 11 games since the season resumed in mid-May

BERLIN: Bayern Munich midfielder Joshua Kimmich says the double-winning German champions must stay “fully focused and greedy” for more silverware during their two-week holiday before launching their assault on the Champions League.

“Now it’s time to recharge our batteries and then tackle the Champions League with full focus and greed,” the 25-year-old told magazine Sport Bild.

Head coach Hans-Dieter Flick sent Bayern on a two-week holiday after winning the German Cup last Saturday before fine-tuning their preparations for the Champions League.

After completing the double with a 4-2 cup final win over Leverkusen, Bundesliga champions Bayern are on a 17-match winning streak dating back to February.

Under Flick, Bayern have won all 11 games since the season resumed in Germany in mid-May amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Bayern are chasing a treble and are among the favorites in Europe after routing Chelsea 3-0 in London in the last 16, first leg, last February before the Champions League halted due to COVID-19.

Bayern still need to finish the tie to reach the quarterfinals and the draw for the remaining rounds in the knockout stages takes place this Friday. Kimmich called on his teammates to keep training during their break to maintain the “hunger” for the Champions League finals in Lisbon next month.

“It will be decisive how we return from vacation: We want to keep that feeling, that hunger,” Kimmich added.

Having stumbled last November, when Flick succeeded Niko Kovac who was sacked following a 5-1 thrashing by Frankfurt, Bayern are now in great form.

Robert Lewandowski has scored 51 goals this season, including 34 in the Bundesliga and is the Champions League’s top-scorer with 11.

Behind the Poland striker, Thomas Mueller has 25 assists, including a record 21 in the Bundesliga.

Kimmich has bossed the defensive midfield alongside Germany teammate Leon Goretzka and suggests Bayern have developed a mental edge.

“In the last two seasons, mentality has been the most important factor in winning the German league title,” said Kimmich.

“FC Bayern may be ahead of other teams in this respect.”