x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Ajmal Shahzad primed up for Test debut

It will be a quick rise for the fast-bowler, 24, who is in contention to get the nod against Bangladesh on Friday and was supposed to be working in medicine.

MANCHESTER, England // Ajmal Shazhad was never meant to be a cricketer. The fast-bowler, 24, who is in contention to make his Test debut for England against Bangladesh on Friday was supposed to be working in medicine. His career is not one based on hours of practice on the playing fields of his hometown of Huddersfield, instead when his friends were outside playing he was swotting up on his homework. "Education was the route for me, I was a smart lad - still am, I hope," he said. "I went to the University of Bradford and studied pharmacology, but I was travelling from Leeds and my cricket was in the way. "I didn't know how to balance the two, I then went to Leeds University to do sport performance coaching - I wanted something to fall back on in sport" Despite the sacrifices his father Mohammed, an accountant, made to put his son through private school he gave his blessing to Ajmal's decision to turn his back on academia during the third year of the course to focus on cricket. "He can come and sleep in the stands while I'm playing," joked Shazhad. "And hopefully I can now give him something back by playing for England. "I owe my dad massively, he put a lot of hard graft in." Shazhad was 12th man for England at Lord's last week, and he would be hoping to step up as Tim Bresnan has suffered a stress fracture to his left foot. That is not assured, with the more experienced Ryan Sidebottom added to the squad. Shazhad has played just 26 first-class games for Yorkshire in county cricket, but has taken 67 wickets in that time. It would be an impressive rise if he takes the field against Bangladesh. "I am ready to go if the nod is given and I'm looking forward to it," he said. "I know what I need to do and if it's not out there on Friday then I'll go back to Yorkshire. When my time comes I am confident I can grasp it and put a good performance in." He would hold no grudges if Sidebottom is picked instead and his role this weekend is limited to carrying the drinks again. "He is a very experienced bowler, he's tried and tested and if they want that they know what they are going to get," he said. "I am a fresh face. I can only put in the performances in the nets and wait and see what happens." lthornhill@thenational.ae