Lancashire’s Haseeb Hameed is about to become England’s youngest ever debutant opening batsman - and for him the occasion cannot come soon enough.
Hameed has been chosen as Alastair Cook’s latest opening partner - the 10th since Andrew Strauss retired four years ago - and the captain went on record at his preview press conference for the first Test in Rajkot to predict this one is here to stay.
On the evidence of just 20 first-class matches so far, the 19-year-old from Bolton has already been dubbed ‘Baby Boycott’ on the basis of his studied technique and aversion to risk at the top of the order.
The Lancashire youngster is undaunted by what he agrees is perhaps the biggest challenge in cricket at present, trying to get a foothold for England against the world’s number one team and their table-topping bowler Ravi Ashwin.
Hameed is confident, though, that he has got his preparation right and is ready.
“I see it as an exciting challenge, it’s nothing to be afraid of,” he said.
“I’m 19, coming up against the best bowler in the world and the best team in the world.
“We do come into the series as underdogs and this is probably the biggest challenge in cricket right now, coming to India and beating them, but we’ve prepared well and it’s time to crack on now.
“It will be a great experience, and I’m sure at the end of the tour I’ll be a better player either way.”
England begin the series after a jolting collapse to defeat, losing all 10 wickets in under a session, in their last Test against Bangladesh.
But Hameed insists they have the personnel, and the belief, to push for series victory over the next six weeks - as Cook’s England did on their last trip four years ago.
“It’s important we go in there confident in our abilities,” he added.
“We’ve done some very good stuff in recent times, so if we stick to that I’m sure we’ll have a very good series.”
Hameed, a visitor to his family’s native India to fine-tune his cricket in these conditions in his early teens, did not take up the option of attending his brother’s wedding, which took place recently in this very state of Gujarat.
Instead, he honed his skills to try to make sure he can help Cook and linchpin batsman Joe Root provide the solidity England will need.
“I know a lot of responsibility has been taken by Cooky and Rooty (in recent Tests), and I think it’s important for the other lads to help them out,” he said.
“It’s great for someone like me to also learn from guys like Cooky and Rooty, and they’ve been great for me so far.
“I’m sure batting with them will take it to another level as well.”