You must surely have heard of Naseem Shah, the latest Pakistani pace bowling sensation picked from the streets to play Test cricket. His bowling action has been compared to that of Shane Bond, Richard Hadlee and Dennis Lillee already and there is a whole lot of buzz around the youngster.
He has been trending on social media for his bowling spells against Australia A in the build-up to the first Test match, and from what we have seen of him, the lad is a fiery pace bowler with good whippy action and an ability to bounce out batsmen.
At 16, that's an incredible feat, particularly when you have Aussie Test stars hopping on their feet to play him out. But the question is if he is only 16.
A piece published in October 2016 in Pakistan’s website, Dawn, has Andy Roberts speaking about Naseem - “I must say that I very much liked a young fast bowler by the name of Naseem. He is just a 16-year-old."
As part of Quetta Gladiators, Naseem was often written about as a 17-year old while there are YouTube videos also from a year or so back where he is deemed to be 16. It's 2019, three years to the day the Dawn published that piece on Naseem Shah, and he is still only 16.
Google has listed his date of birth as 15 February 2003. But many of Pakistan's greatest players have defied Google with their age. Take Shahid Afridi for instance. He was deemed to be only 16 when he blasted the fastest ODI ton at the time in 1996. Earlier this year in his autobiography, Afridi himself clarified that he was 19 at the time.
Mushtaq Mohammad and Hasan Raza made their debuts at 15 and 14 years, respectively. Raza remains the youngest Test cricketer by the record, but the age of both the aforementioned players is highly suspected. That this is a perennial issue in Pakistan means that Naseem may be another whose age is inappropriately marked. Pakistan have done little to stifle this age fraud and athletes continue to extend their career well into the 40s when they are only in their early 30s on paper.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Saeed Khan