If England sought after to place a good spin on a travel to Bangladesh that ended with a T20 sequence whitewash they may in finding it within the integration of a good spinner. To watch Rehan Ahmed is to look a tender cricketer it sounds as if with out concern. Parachuted right into a squad filled with World Cup winners, in tough stipulations and unfamiliar setting, the 18-year-old demanded the ball when within the box and the strike whilst on the crease.
“I think that comes quite natural for me,” he says. “When I was playing in clubs where there are so many proper first-class bowlers and I was only 13 or 14 and I wasn’t getting overs, I just kept asking the captain: ‘Give me overs, give me overs.’ That’s just something I’ve grown up with.
“I’ve always said that I’ve got here because I’ve worked for it. At the same time as I’ve been starstruck by batting with someone, bowling at someone in the nets, or stood near someone in the field, I’ve still tried to do my job. I’ve felt quite comfortable in this environment and that’s thanks to the lads and the coaches who have welcomed me in and not allowed me to feel like a stranger. They’ve not made me feel like I need to prove myself, but to relax and enjoy it.”
In the space of three months Ahmed has made international debuts in all three formats, in each of them becoming the youngest Englishman to do so. He has taken wickets in all of them, and struggled with nerves only in the first. “The only thing, not that I was scared of but I knew I’d be nervous about, was Test cricket – and I was,” he says of that match against Pakistan in Karachi. “When I was bowling my first ball, it was like I couldn’t feel my forearm. But I loved the feeling. It took two or three balls for it to go, and when I was hit for my first boundary I just thought: ‘It’s a normal game now.'”
With his fellow leg-spinner Adil Rashid, probably England’s greatest ever white-ball bowler, now 35, Ahmed has come to be seen by many as his likely heir. “They’re huge shoes to fill. Even thinking about it puts pressure on me,” he says. They are fairly other bowlers – “Rash is more of a traditional leg-spinner, but not old-fashioned because of his variations. Whereas me, I focus on bowling it a bit quicker, not trying to spin it as much, and hit the stumps every ball,” Ahmed says – and separated more than anything by experience.
Rashid barely played international cricket before 2015, when he turned 27, and has now made 679 senior appearances across three formats. Ahmed has still played only four first-class games, eight in the 50-over format and 21 T20s, including his international matches.
As he returns to Leicestershire, Ahmed’s focus is on the county season and the red ball. “I used to see Test cricket as a boring game kind of thing,” he says. “But it’s a long game, it’s the hardest game. Now I see it as the most fun game, I take the most joy from it and stuff. The joy I got from playing and winning a Test match was unmatched. I don’t know if anything can match that.”
That he is not one for short-form entertainment is proved by the way he filled his downtime on tour: watching the epic Turkish drama Ertugrul on Netflix, which runs to 90 episodes, or around 68 hours, in all. “It’s about religious wars and that kind of stuff. It’s quite interesting,” he says. “So I’m reading now – I never used to read books, but now I’m reading subtitles.”
With places in England’s red- and white-ball teams more hotly contested than ever, Ahmed is aware that getting a few games on the subcontinent over the winter does not guarantee involvement in this summer’s Ashes or the 50-over World Cup that follows them. But off the pitch, at least, he is patient. “I nonetheless dream of it, however on the similar time I take every day because it comes,” he says of the Ashes. “If I play I play and if not then I don’t, that kind of thing.
“The thing is with England, if I don’t play I love watching it. So when I was 12th man in Pakistan, it wasn’t just me being 12th man. It was me actually watching England cricket live – and it was the best day of my life.”