From six first-class games to Rohit Sharma's wicket: How Bazball unearthed wildcard Shoaib Bashir for a Test debut against India
Ben Stokes has made some bold decisions during his term as England Test captain. Along with the coach Brendon McCullum, he has made the England Test team a fearless one that is not afraid of making unorthodox decisions. One such instance is the onboarding of young off-spinner Shoaib Bashir into the England Test squad.
Bashir made his first-class debut for Somerset about six months ago. He bowled 49 overs for just a solitary wicket, and his team lost the Test to Essex by 196 runs. He played just six first-class matches before making his debut at Visakhapatnam. In those six matches, he picked up 10 wickets at an average of 67.
But these are just numbers. India is probably the toughest place to win a Test series for any visiting team and the England skipper knew he needed an X-factor player in his team. Ben Stokes was convinced that Bashir had the X-factor to trouble the Indian batters in India. He made a late entry into England’s squad because of the delay in his entry visa.
Social media helped Shoaib Bashir reach closer to his Test debut
Stokes came to know about Bashir through social media for the first time. The X account of county side Somerset posted Bashir’s first over where he bowled to England legend Sir Alastair Cook. Cook went on to score 128 runs but Stokes was impressed with what he saw from the young off-spinner. In the video, he can be seen troubling Alastair Cook with his tall height. He has an unorthodox action and batters find it difficult to pick his lengths.
Stokes forwarded the video to a group in which coach Brendon McCullum and ECB director of cricket Rob Key are a part. "To be perfectly honest, Abu Dhabi was the first real live look I got at Bash," Stokes said. "The first time I saw him was on Twitter. I think the County Championship [Somerset’s account] put a little clip together of him bowling against Sir Alastair.
"I'm in a WhatsApp group with Keysy and Baz. I actually did forward the clip on and said, 'have a look at this, this could be something we could work with on our India tour' and it just progressed from there. He got selected on the Lions tour and obviously, the coaches on that tour fed back everything to us."
Bashir was picked up for the India tour and he impressed the management during the team’s preparatory camp in Abu Dhabi. "I just saw something," Stokes said. "The height he bowled from, it was very obvious that he put a lot of action, a lot of revolutions on the ball. It was something I looked at and thought, this could be pretty good for India. I've played a lot of games out here. As a batter, you know what is hard to face, especially from a spin point of view.
"When it came to selection, there wasn't too much thought around him to be honest, because everyone was very, very impressed with what Bash showed. And everything we wanted in our spin group was answered by Bashir."
On the eve of the second Test when it was confirmed that Leach is unavailable to play, Bashir was brought in to make his debut. "Myself, Baz [Brendon McCullum] and Popey [vice-captain Ollie Pope] will probably have a longer think about it. We looked at the wicket; I gave it a tap, and a play-around to make it look like I knew what I was doing. Bash is in the squad, we haven't brought him here to have an experience. If we feel we want to turn to him, we will," Stokes had previously said. It is now Bashir’s chance to shine at the biggest arena in international cricket and prove his captain’s decision right.