Brisbane: Teenage bowling sensation Naseem Shah will become one of the youngest cricketers to play a Test after Pakistan captain Azhar Ali confirmed on Wednesday the 16-year-old will make his debut at the Gabba.
Shah, who opted to remain on tour after his mother died last week, made the grade for Thursday’s first Test after impressing with an eight-over spell against Australia A in Perth.
“We are definitely looking to play him — he is bowling really well,” Azhar said ahead of the series opener in Brisbane.
Only handful of players have made their debut aged 16, including Sachin Tendulkar who went on to become an Indian batting legend.
The youngest Test player is listed by Cricinfo as Pakistan’s Hasan Raza, who was 14 on his 1996 debut, though his date of birth was later disputed.
Azhar said he had faith in Shah’s abilities through a high-pressure five-day game.
“He’s very fit, I have captained him in first-class matches and he has overs under his belt,” he said.
“I’m sure that he can do that in Test matches as well, I have no doubts in his fitness and his bowling skills.
“Not many players can reach that standard so early but there are exceptions and he’s one of them,” he added. “We are all looking forward to him having a very successful career.”
Pakistan have a history of blooding promising players early, accounting for six of the 10 youngest to play Test matches.
But Naseem, who has only played seven first-class games, is also carrying the huge extra burden of his mother passing away.
Pakistan great Wasim Akram said if someone was good enough, then age did not come into it.
“I think it’s a blessing in disguise because when you’re 16-17, you don’t even know what the word pressure means,” Akram told a TV channel. “You just want to go out and play.
“When I was 17, I didn’t know what pressure meant, I was loving it. I think the same goes for Naseem. When he becomes a star he’ll know what pressure means. At this age he’ll just be raring to go.”
Pakistan also have two 19-year-old fast bowlers in Musa Khan and Shaheen Afridi and Azhar said they were taking a fearless attitude into the two-match series in Australia.
“We have the talent to potentially do well here,” he said.
“We come with fresh faces and a new look to the Test team and we are very confident that if we execute our skills, we have the potential to beat Australia.
“To do that we have to just keep believing and play with no fear.”