How Naseem Wrote His Own Tale
Playing his 11th Test, the youngster bowled his heart out against Australia in 31 quality overs, picking up 4/58.
Naseem isn’t in the Test squad.
That can’t be right. *Refresh page*
Ok, he is in the Test squad, but he’s a reserve. He probably won’t play, but it’s good for his future development.
Hassan and Faheem are playing collectively on one leg in the PSL; call Naseem up. *Refresh page*
There will be no changes to the squad; we hope Hasan and Faheem will be fit for the first Test.
That is simply not possible. Call a fast bowler up to replace the fast bowlers! *Refresh page*
Ok, ok, we called up a fast bowler. We had to get one who can bat, so we’re going with Wasim Jr.
Wasim Jr has a top FC score of 29. Across all professional cricket, he has one fifty where he scooped Hasnain and Dahani to all parts in a comically small ground. *Refresh page*
Ok, so good news. Well, not really, but you’ll like it. Rauf tested positive, and Naseem is in the squad!
Normal protocol would dictate that once the man who the replacement came in for recovered, he would walk right back into the side. In fact, the replacement may find himself demoted to the label of “reserve player” once again, not to be called upon unless another crisis occurs.
And yet, when people decided to glance at the score, midway through their morning work, they would see Naseem Shah running in to bowl at Steve Smith. How is he there, why is he there, who is he there for? These are questions that will be answered later. For now, watch a nineteen-year-old show you that he should always have been there.
Naseem is a Pakistani fast bowler; he has been brought up on tales of steam rollers and giant killers. On haal, jigra, and daleri, because that’s what great stories are made of. Ever since he learned he could bowl fast, he has been a predator, sharpening his claws and teeth on hapless kids who never have and probably never will again face pace like this. But what made Naseem different wasn’t that he was fast; it was that he was fast and mind-numbingly accurate.
When the step up to international cricket happened, he found himself in a role that suited his pace but not his style. He was Pakistan’s “enforcer,” the man they turned to when a batsman needed roughing up. Indeed, his first international wicket was off a short delivery. In a role that is high risk, Naseem leaked runs. He had trouble adjusting to his new action and leaked runs because of that too.
The accuracy that made him special was lost. Pakistan didn’t care; they were already looking down the conveyor belt. He was on his own. Around the squads, but not really in contention for a place in the XI. Just in limbo till the public had forgotten about him enough so that he could be phased out.
It took a series of unfortunate events for him to make the XI for the Pindi Test. On that flat wicket, he bowled his heart out, but it looked the same Naseem from a year ago. Sure, the accuracy was a tad better, the action looked different, but he still went at 4.23 runs to the over, consistent with his economy in his last Test in New Zealand.
He was still impatient, still living on the stories of old of how the greats would just roll up and produce a magic delivery from nowhere, triggering a collapse that won the Test. When tales are written and told, they tend to skip over the menial bits such as how many dot balls were bowled before the dismissal, how many plays and misses there were, how “in control” the batsman was, because while very relevant, they don’t add to the tale.
Naseem bowled one bouncer in his first spell. It was to Khawaja; Khawaja spotted it a mile away and imperiously swatted it over square leg. There were no more bouncers after that. Naseem had decided that today, he was going to be patient. He bowled in the same spot, again and again, the classic 4th/5th stump line to start with and then switching to stump-to-stump when it started to reverse. His accuracy was back but now with newfound patience as he delivered by far his most economical spell to date.
With his foundation set with patience and accuracy, Naseem started to show off why he is so highly rated and how he managed to average 16 in an FC season where almost every other fast bowler averaged in excess of 40.
There was the supreme control on reverse to start with, but this tale will skip to the setups.
Over 40.1 to 40.4, Naseem delivered four quite wide good-length deliveries that went further away after pitching; Smith negotiated these quite easily… probably thinking about his lunch as he marches towards Test century number 28. And that’s when Naseem slips in the one that goes in, from the same length, but there is a reason Smith is the best Test batsman of our generation. He gets his bat down just in time to save his wicket. Naseem is left with his hands on his head, knowing how close he was, but then he trots back to his mark and delivers the next ball. Back to the 4th/5th stump line, the setup begins again. He will be patient. Fifteen overs later, Smith doesn’t get his bat down in time. Naseem bowled 29 balls at him, conceded 3 runs, and finally wore him down.
Cameron Green is on strike, the ball is reversing, and the captain has brought Naseem back to wrap up the tail. Naseem’s plan is different for Green; the ball is hooping in, he is going to go up to Green’s bat and knock on it till it gives way.
First ball, he almost has him; the inside edge saves him.
Second ball, 136 kph, knock knock, defended.
Third ball, 137 kph, knock knock, defended solidly.
Fourth ball, 137 kph, knock knock, half defended towards the leg side.
Fifth ball, 141 kph, the door gives way. Stumps splattered, the extra effort, the extra pace, the extra millisecond taken away is enough to do the job. Brought in to remove the tail, he has worked over the guy sitting pretty on 79.
Naseem has shown what makes him special – pace and accuracy – as he writes a tale of his own.