When Haseeb Hameed registered his second century of the match for Nottinghamshire in the County Championship game against Worcestershire last week, film showed a dressing room bursting with pleasure. It was not confined to the players; all round the country affection bubbles for a young man treated most unkindly by the cricketing gods.
Plucked for the 2016 tour of India as a 19-year-old after an impressive season with Lancashire, Hameed impressed everyone from his teammates to Virat Kohli. But a succession of injuries and a baffling lack of form meant he was first dropped, then sacked, by Lancashire, a move that precipitated a new start at Trent Bridge.
In the truncated summer of 2020 he held steady but was appointed vice-captain at the start of this season, and his first-innings 111 was his first century for Nottinghamshire and only his second since 2016.
And yet, the new hirsute Hameed – his chin-length black bob held back with a hairband – seems the same polite, cheerful player who first burst on the scene as a teenager. He is phlegmatic about his rollercoaster ride. “There were some real tough moments – breaking a second finger in nine months was hard, my third surgery all requiring six weeks of rehab, and then the following season to have the season I did averaging nine was extremely tough,” he says.
“Being let go by my home club was tough. But in those tough moments I have been lucky to find something deep inside me that doesn’t let me give up and urges me to try one more time.”
How would he advise that young man who was thrust into the spotlight in India? “I’d say part of it is not to rush too much, just enjoy the journey. You have your ambitions and aspirations, but just let everything happen in good time. Once you’ve had that exposure to the international scene as a young boy you also have lots of different people giving you different advice, so I’d say just hold firm to what got you there.”
He still has affection for Lancashire, a club he joined as a nine-year-old. “I had mostly absolutely wonderful years. I was very lucky to be part of a very strong age group side with Saqib Mahmood, Matt Parkinson, Callum Parkinson. And going on to achieve what I was able to achieve as a 19-year-old was extremely special, so my overriding emotion is it will always have a special place for me in my heart, and I guess home is home, but it is time for a new journey and a new chapter in my life and I’m lucky enough to have found that here in Nottinghamshire.”
Peter Moores, Nottinghamshire’s coach, is happy too, telling Cricinfo: “He’d got to a place where he was surviving as a player: trying not to get out and block the new ball, but he’s now … a lovely player to watch with a lovely flow to him.”
As for England: “The message has always been quite simple – if I can get back to enjoying my cricket again and performing well then the rest will hopefully look after itself.” But best of all, he is enjoying his cricket again.
Marnus Labuschagne, the Australian middle-order batsman who was such a hit for Glamorgan in 2019, will play his first game of the season, against Kent, on Thursday. An average of 60.80 after 18 Tests was not enough to get him bought in the Indian Premier League auction – instead he hit 192 for Queensland to help them to secure victory in the Sheffield Shield final.
Joe Root will miss Yorkshire’s game against Northamptonshire, resting, Jimmy Anderson needs another week to recover from his torn calf, but Mark Wood will turn out for Durham against Warwickshire and Stuart Broad returns for Nottinghamshire against Derbyshire.