Rehan Ahmed said, “I will have to score a Test hundred before thinking about the new Nighthawk.”
It is not surprising that Rehan Ahmed, a wrist-spinner, has the ability to deceive and confuse opponents. While speaking on the rooftop of the team hotel in Visakhapatnam, he reflected on the thrilling Test matches, his experience with the England team, and the importance of faith over cricket. Despite being only 19 years old, Rehan displayed a maturity and fearlessness that comes with youth.
On the third evening in Vizag, there was a lot of evidence of this when Ahmed was seen practicing with throwdowns at the edge of the boundary. He had completed his work with the ball and taken six wickets in 41 overs during the match. Despite their efforts, they were unable to achieve the desired 399 runs to win. During this time, Ahmed had spoken to his captain, Ben Stokes, and head coach, Brendon McCullum, about potentially coming in as the first batter if a wicket fell, instead of the usual order.
Ahmed expressed surprise at his newfound confidence, stating before England’s departure to Abu Dhabi for a six-day break, “I approached Stokesy and Baz and asked to put on the pads, and they allowed me to do so. It was a cool experience.”
Ahmed had previously been given the opportunity to play the role that Stuart Broad called “the Nighthawk”. He had first been promoted as a lower-order player during his impressive Test debut in Pakistan last winter, where he took seven wickets. In this recent match, Ahmed scored a couple of boundaries in the final over of the day and contributed 23 runs before being dismissed on the fourth morning. However, he is uncertain if he can claim the title for himself. According to Ahmed, “[Broad] was the original [Nighthawk] and he also has a Test hundred. I will try to achieve one of those first before competing with him.”
Ahmed has a strong passion for cricket, but also enjoys watching the Turkish drama “Diriliş: Ertuğrul.” He does not have much interest in golf and plans to spend the break before the third Test with his older brother, Raheem. His father, Naeem, was recently in South Africa to support his youngest son, Farhan, as he played for England in the Under-19 World Cup.
Training is strictly off the menu over the next six days but, more generally, Ahmed prefers batting in the nets and bowling in a match given the ability to set his fields and get into a contest. He also knows that as a leg-spinner, one who can sometimes find the Dukes ball slippery during the early county summer, he may need both disciplines to nail down a Test berth in the long term and certainly at home.
Despite India being a difficult place for leg spinners to play, bowling is still his main focus. The limited number of players who succeed usually have a faster bowling style, which Ahmed realized between Test matches and saw an improvement in results on a flatter pitch. He also noticed the effectiveness of bowling with a cross-seam to create unpredictable bounce, a realization he came to on his own rather than being instructed.
Under Stokes, Ahmed has permission to attack even if his view on economy – “I don’t like bowling maidens. I think that’s just boring” – may be something that takes this a little too far. But it is clear, three Tests into his career, Ahmed feels emboldened by his captain, confident enough to miss training two days out from the second Test in order to fast. Stokes, having played with practising Muslims in Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, understood.
“Ahmed recalls a time in Abu Dhabi, before the tour, when there was a team outing on a Friday. However, as Ahmed and Bashir were observing Friday prayers, they reached out to their team manager Wayne to ask if they could skip the outing. Stokes immediately responded to Ahmed’s message, offering his understanding and support. He has remained true to his word, showing great respect and understanding every time Ahmed prays. This level of understanding and respect is shared by everyone on this tour.”
My religious beliefs hold greater significance to me than cricket. As long as I am fulfilling them, I am content with whatever unfolds in the game. This mindset allows me to remain composed on the field, as I do not feel pressured.
Rashid serves as more than just an influence for Stokes, with Ahmed frequently seeking advice from the English bowler who has won two World Cups. Even when Rashid tells Ahmed that they have different bowling styles, one can’t help but wonder how Rashid, who has 19 Test caps but never a consistent spot on the team, would fare in the current setup. Ahmed, still early in his career and requiring patience at a young age, seems to be flourishing.