Ajmal Shahzad is only five months younger than Tim Bresnan but still looks up to his pathfinder for Yorkshire and now England. When Shahzad was left out of the NatWest Series squad last week, four days after his successful Test debut, it was because his fellow all-rounder Bresnan had made a quicker-than-expected recovery from a foot injury.
Shahzad is to get his shot after all at the mid-summer one-day internationals against Australia – called up to cover for seamer Ryan Sidebottom, another native Yorkshireman, who has suffered a hamstring injury. With only 13 available, Shahzad may yet be about to play in the same England team as 25-year-old Bresnan – although it is a moot point whether there will often be room in the XI for two players who offer England similarly brawny all-round skills.
Yet even if they do end up vying for one place, Shahzad insists his admiration for Bresnan will be unaffected. "Bres has been around England longer than me, and he takes me under his wing," says Shahzad, having joined the England squad yesterday in preparation for an ODI against Scotland in Edinburgh and then the NatWest Series. "I looked up to him when I was coming through for Yorkshire – because I saw myself as similar, a vibrant character who hits the ball hard and bowls at good pace. I've seen what he's done and I just want to follow in his footsteps. It's good to chat to him, and he looks after me."
Shahzad remains happy to defer to Bresnan's seniority. "There's definitely no hard feelings when he's playing in front of me – because he's shown against the best opposition he's very good at that level. If I get my chance to play in the same team as him he can help me."
Bresnan has had to prove himself twice over with many of the uninitiated, unable to see past their own pre-conceptions of what a 14-stone Yorkshireman may be able to do on a cricket pitch. Shahzad had weighty issues of his own a decade or so ago, but soon wised up to how to make the most of his potential. "When I was younger I was quite a big lad. I just used to eat a lot of food, and not do a lot of training," he says. "Then I got involved in sport, and the penny dropped – knowing that to push on I needed to sort my lifestyle out."
That self-discipline has helped to take him as far as one Test and one ODI cap so far. His hunger now is for many more – but Shahzad accepts at present he is an understudy. "My Test debut went quite well. I personally think it could have gone better for me, if I'd worked a little bit harder on my batting. If I get a game [in the ODI series] I hope I can show what I've got to offer again."
Shahzad's international ambition is not limited to any format, and England have already demonstrated they too see him as an "all-round" all-rounder – having picked him in their five-day, one-day and 20-over squads. "I hope I get more Tests and I'm not a one-Test wonder. But all I can do is show to the selectors and coaches what I've got – and then keep building on what I started. I've never wanted to be seen as just a Test or just a one-day bowler. I see myself playing all forms of the game. I'm learning fast and enjoying every minute."
New experiences are coming thick and fast off the pitch too – but only because of cricket. When Shahzad was selected in the squad for the first Test at Lord's, it was his first time in London. If he plays against Scotland it will be his first match in Edinburgh – although he was once 12th man for Yorkshire there. He is looking forward to a few more maiden voyages too.
"Cricket is taking me to all places. I'd never been to the West Indies or Bangladesh until I went with England. I hope if I keep working hard I can keep travelling round with the England boys."Reuse content