Rehan Ahmed: England and Leicestershire all-rounder tipped for greatness after Pakistan Test | Cricket News
“The world is his oyster at the moment… there is no doubt that he’s got a huge amount of talent and leg spin is a really tough art to master. He works hard so let’s hope he can get right to the top and even further,” Matthew Wood, elite pathway manager, Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club.
Rehan Ahmed’s sensational debut performance and five-wicket haul in England’s third Test against Pakistan earlier in December capped what has been a meteoric rise for the 18-year-old in 2022.
He made his first-class debut in May for Leicestershire and became England’s youngest-ever Test player last week, returning the best figures by an England leg-spinner since Tommy Greenhough’s 16-4-35-5 against India at Lord’s in 1959, as he dismissed Pakistan captain Babar Azam, along with Mohammad Rizwan, Saud Shakeel, Mohammad Wasim and Agha Salman.
Ahmed also featured in the 2023 Indian Premier League auction at a base price of £40,000. He has truly announced himself as one of English cricket’s brightest prospects.
Born in Nottingham in 2004, Ahmed comes from a cricket-mad family which includes father Naeem who played for Pakistan in the 1970s and congratulated his son on the pitch in Karachi after former England captain and Sky Sports pundit Nasser Hussain awarded the debutant his first Test cap of hopefully a lengthy international career.
As a 13-year-old, Ahmed met his idol Shane Warne who tipped the talented bowler for stardom as he clean bowled Ben Stokes during an England youth team practice nets session.
Warne claimed he would be playing first-class cricket by the age of 15 and the late Australian was not far off with that prediction.
Matthew Wood, Ahmed’s academy manager at Nottinghamshire who oversaw his development from ages nine to 13 before he switched counties to Leicestershire, recalls how driven and gifted the leg spinner was and how he rose to the challenge of playing in older age groups.
Wood told Sky Sports News: “You thought there was something there, he had the ability to bowl a mixture of deliveries as leg spinners do. But for someone of nine years old, to be able to deliver that and with control it was something quite exceptional really.
“He worked with our best 12 to 13-year-olds and he was always looking to play up his age group and his brother Raheem was in that group as well and there was always a competitive edge between the two of them. If there was a challenge in place, he wanted to do the next level of that challenge.
“He worked hard and had an immense passion for the game, he ate and slept cricket.
“We’ve got a really good relationship with their family having Farhan on here and we’re really pleased to have played a small part in his development.
“The world is his oyster at the moment, it’s a fantastic start, he needs to keep working hard, as he has done, and there is no doubt that he’s got a huge amount of talent and leg spin is a really tough art to master.
“He works hard so let’s hope he can get right to the top and even further. His attitude to his batting mirrors a little bit how England are playing at the moment with quite a fearless approach to the game.
“He was always confident, when there was a challenge he didn’t shy away from it at all but he was really just desperate to learn. He was always curious about things and would relate things back to his idols and his heroes, so to that extent he was always a real student of the game.
“I know his father did a lot of work away with him where we trained and he does a lot of work with young Farhan as well so he’s obviously got a really good cricket knowledge and understanding.”
Rehan was taking his GCSEs a little over two years ago and 14-year-old brother Farhan is not far behind in terms of education or his cricketing development.
Farhan, a fellow all-rounder, is excelling in Nottinghamshire’s academy and already turns out for the club’s second XI. He wants to emulate his older sibling’s breakthrough at club and international level.
He said: “I was a bit nervous but it was amazing to see him do well in the Pakistan Test. It was an amazing feeling seeing him get called up, for all my family and especially my mum and my dad was over there already.
“I woke up early each day to watch the Test along with all my family.
“I was in school at the time when I got told by my teacher that he took five wickets.
“It definitely spurs me on seeing my brother play so well and aspire to play for England. I’d love to follow in his footsteps and play for England, that would be the dream.
“Dad used to play when he was in Pakistan and over here he’s played for around 16 years. Away from training at Notts we do extra training with him. My brother gives me tips and the perspective of what he thinks is helpful.
“It’s exciting to see how fearless England are under Ben Stokes and Rehan could thrive with that, definitely.”
Leicestershire tied Ahmed down to a contract until 2026 earlier this year, he went on to star for the club’s white ball sides and at County Championship Division 2 level last season where he took five wickets and made a century in September’s match against Derbyshire.
He is in esteemed company with the East Midlands academy also having produced the likes of Stuart Broad, James Taylor and Harry Gurney for England.
For those on the coaching staff at Grace Road, it is no surprise that Ahmed has attracted widespread attention and earned plaudits from the likes of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum.
Monday 26th December 4:50am
Dips Patel, the second XI head coach, said: “I first came across Rehan when he was a nine-year-old boy when I was looking after the U10s at Leicestershire.
“At the time, he was playing for Nottinghamshire against us and he bowled us all out and smashed us out the park as a nine-year-old in a U11s game. It was great to see him come along and join us at Leicestershire when he was 13 and his development has just progressed from there really onto the academy and into the second team and then the first team very quickly.”
When asked if it was clear from that early age he had something special, Patel said: “100 per cent, as soon as he joined us we were overwhelmed really. The skill level in here that he showed against the older lads as well and even when he came into the second team, the confidence he had was brilliant.
“He won’t be fazed even on the England stage, he may have a few butterflies in his stomach but he just has really good charisma and self-belief which is really, really good to see.
“I’ve always seen him as a leg spinner, but it’s his batting that excites me. I think he finds bowling quite easy but the batting he loves and works really hard at, but he will be a top-order batter in my opinion.
“His focus and professionalism is second to none, he is very respectful of the boys and his team-mates around him. Whether he’s saying hello to the catering staff or the stewards at Leicestershire, he is just a very humble person. A lovely kid.
“You just can’t take your eyes off of him, box office stuff I reckon.”
Jigar Naik, head of talent pathway at Leicestershire, added: “Rehan first joined us at 13, going on to 14. I still remember it clearly, he came into the indoor school and bowled about three balls and all of the coaching staff looked at each other and thought ‘this kid is next-level’.
“We looked at his bowling without even realising that he batted, he’s probably a top-order batter or at least he will become one and the way he bowls speaks for itself.
Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum will always back him so the simplicity of that message for someone coming through is great
“I didn’t think he’d make his England Test debut so soon. I knew he’d not be involved in the England U19 set-up because of the year that he’d had for Leicestershire and we were predicting a winter full of England Lions games for his development but he impressed with the Lions and then went onto the tour squad so it was fantastic to hear and such great news for the club.
“I woke up just to watch his debut in the Pakistan Test, as soon as I found out he was going to play I set the alarm for 4.15am. It speaks volumes how he was able to develop that spell, initially he probably bowled a little bit too full. He was rushing through and nervous, as you would be, but the way he came back and every spell he bowled afterwards got better and better.
“If he continues putting in the hard work, he is going to be a special cricketer.
“Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum will always back him so the simplicity of that message for someone coming through is great.”
Ahmed is being rested by the ECB for February’s Test series against New Zealand with the governing body managing the youngster’s game time. They say he will compete in the UAE T20 League in January with a view to joining up with the white-ball team for the tour of Bangladesh in March if selected.
With such an explosive start to his club and international career and such high praise from those involved in his cricketing journey so far, expectations will only ramp up for the youngster.
But Ahmed’s temperament and skill would suggest there is little that fazes him and that he can only capitalise on the belief the likes of Stokes and Warne have shown in him and make a serious claim for a regular place across England’s squads in 2023.