Amjad completes remarkable rise to Test status
Saturday 07 March 2009
Amjad Khan's appearance in a Test match for England yesterday was extraordinary for at least three reasons. First, he was born and brought up in Copenhagen and thus becomes the first Dane to play Test cricket. Secondly, he was not originally selected for this tour and has been preferred to two fast bowlers who were. Thirdly, he has had to overcome career-threatening injury which kept him out of cricket for 18 months.
Apart from that his selection yesterday was wholly predictable. Although he was summoned to the Caribbean only as cover for the injured Andrew Flintoff, he has impressed sufficiently to persuade the selectors to jettison both Stephen Harmison and Ryan Sidebottom. That is a big decision by a new management team clearly unafraid to make big decisions.
Amjad has been in and around county cricket since 2001 and his progress has been both marked and noted. He has genuine pace – he was once clocked at 93mph, which is seriously fast – and the ability to reverse swing the old ball.
His route to cricket was hardly conventional simply because of where he comes from. The son of parents who had emigrated from Pakistan, there was only a peripheral interest in the game at home. Amjad (right) took to cricket at six when he saw a game being played on his way to football practice and asked to take part.
Subsequently he became, at 17, the youngest player to represent Denmark. He was clearly talented but a significant breakthrough came, as so often in all lives, because of who he knew not what he knew.
One of his mentors was Ole Mortensen, who had been the first Dane to play in county cricket at Derbyshire. One of Mortensen's team-mates had been the New Zealander John Wright who by 2000 had become coach of Kent. Mortensen recommended the kid to his old pal.
The rest was not quite history. Amjad took 63 wickets in his first season, then regressed slightly. But by 2005 he was pinning back batsmen's ears. The following year he gained British citizenship and was part of a select group practising at the Indian fast bowling academy in Chennai that winter.
There he felt a twinge in his knee. Within weeks he needed cruciate ligament surgery, missed the whole of the 2007 summer and did not fully return until last August. He did enough to be picked for the England Lions this winter and when Flintoff was injured in the Caribbean he was selected as cover. The rest may indeed be history.
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