England v England Lions – Rob

Rehan Ahmed’s promotion to the Test squad may have seemed at the last minute. But a day after Ahmed was informed of his selection by head coach Brendon McCullum for the Pakistan tour, men’s director of cricket Rob Kay revealed that the plan was already in place.

A 15-man Test squad was selected in October without Ahmed’s name, joining the Lions squad instead. A training camp in Dubai, and involvement in the ongoing warm-up match between the Test squad and the Lions in Abu Dhabi, was to be followed by a secondment on the Test tour to continue his development.

And while that doesn’t necessarily stop Ahmed from being selected, especially under captain Ben Stokes, whose tenure has included changing the way things are done, the fact that his call-up was made official this way Made, a week later. The first test is due to careful, necessary planning.

“The plan for Rayhan was that we were always looking to get him into the team,” Key said in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. “It’s the best way to help him develop. He’s a serious talent, but he might be four or five years away from the finished product. He’s nowhere near the finished article right now.

“But we just hope that coming into the Test squad, with McCullum and Stokes and their mentality… of bowling on the route. He becomes a complete member of the squad, he’s not just a net bowler. “If needed, we believe he can play and do a good job for us with bat and ball. There is an opportunity to put him on a path that will give him the best advantage.”

“Credit to the Test set-up, we feel it’s a great group of people to help him develop and get him to a point where we think he can be faster, not just the captain or Brendan. together, but by joining each of them. Players have a role in its development.”

After sending the overs eight wickets for 73 as the Test “Eleven” posted 501 for seven on the first day of this three-day tune-up at the Tolerance Oval, Ahmed helped provide a surprise sign of the Lions’ reply. His blistering 26 off 10 balls included three fours and two sixes, both off Liam Livingstone, who responded by claiming a run-out at the non-striker’s end in the same over, before his end was over. Done in traditional ways. This meant that the Lions scored 411 for nine on the second day. Haseeb Hameed’s fellow opener Tom Haines’ 145 and 82 runs provided the courage of the innings.

Ahmed’s innings – bold, unflappable, pretty much what you’d expect from a confident 18-year-old – may have added to the impression he made on McCullum, who picked Ahmed. was already thought of as sly. He had seen or had a thorough conversation with him. Clearly he has been affected in the last 48 hours.

Even so, the duty of looking after a child who has only three first-class appearances for Leicestershire, who just turned 18 in August, was always a consideration.

“How we’ve done it, we wanted it to be a soft launch, rather than putting him in a squad and you walk away with all the media speculation,” Key revealed. “He’s been able to come out here, we’ve had a look at him. Mo Bobbitt.” [ECB performance director and head coach of the Lions] Knows him very well and has been a big part of his development since he was a toddler. Each of these young players has gone through that path, including Bobbitt, David Court. [Player ID Lead]. They’re well read about these people, they’ve been in touch with the families and all that. That was the best way we felt we could achieve that soft launch, so it was a while before he was selected in the squad.”

There is another interesting factor for Ahmed. Even with a red-ball century and five wickets, both won the County Championship match against Derbyshire at the end of the 2022 season, his white-ball game is clearly a bit more developed. Is. So much so, that he had a franchise cricket offer this winter. Had the schedule worked out differently, he would almost certainly have played in England’s ODIs in Australia having trained with the limited-overs squad during the summer immediately following the T20 World Cup.

Key Sadies Ahmed is “going to make decisions going forward in his career and life”, around which the color ball takes his fancy at different points of the year. And he has no qualms about admitting that this exposure in Test cricket could plant a valuable seed in Ahmed’s head.

“He might be thinking about franchise cricket but we’ve made him an offer he really can’t refuse – an opportunity to get into Test cricket. If you can play in that form. You can play anything.”

This last bit is a principle which the key swears by, and so far as matters on the field are concerned, the English base its work on the head of the game so far. Even from his days in the commentary box with Sky Sports and others, he has long held the view that the old and new worlds can sit comfortably together, with a bit of give and take along the way.

Jofra Archer is a more advanced example of this. After returning to bowl in a match for the first time since July 2021, he will play for MI Cape Town in the SA20 franchise competition. The appointment is part of a gradual build-up of Archer’s workload – he will then move on to the ODI series in South Africa – and is perhaps the most overt indication of cooperation between two institutions with different priorities, at least On the lower face. That and, no doubt, it was set in motion after talks between SA20 commissioners Key and Graeme Smith over the summer.

“He’s a wild-card pick,” Key said. “You talk to the franchise owners and you come up with a plan so we’re connected. They want the same thing, which is Jofra Archer not getting injured again for a long time. Games for them, then 50-over stuff. Go in, so he has competitive cricket and a build-up. The way the world works now, you have to work together with these teams and you all have to align and want the same thing. To make sure Jofra can play to his potential for as long as he can. The only way to make this work is if you all work together.”

At the age of 37, and just retired from a playing career primarily with Sussex after 20 years as a professional, he has joined the game, both with connections and a budding With his understanding of ecosystems. He has experience in various domestic and franchise competitions worldwide. Beyond his undoubted personality, Key will lean on his rare nous.

“Things like shaping the central contract decisions, all the things that he will be involved in, and he understands better than me because he has played franchise cricket and he knows what it’s like to be a player, and the decisions that he has to make. Because these decisions are coming for players now, they’re not coming in five years’ time, they’re coming now. What franchise do they want to play for? What format do they want to play in? Want to play in the series? Or is it going to collide with something else? Luke Wright is all over them.”

Of course, much of this is English luxury, whether it’s guaranteeing the interests of Test cricket punters and punters, or simply the finances to drive their assets to a point. The key is recognizing all of this, especially at a time when franchise competition is only growing in number and pull.

“We are very lucky in English cricket but our summer does not end with all these leagues. You can see why Rahul Dravid said he cannot allow his players to play in these franchise leagues, because All these leagues will just collapse.Ranji Trophy

“We are in a very fortunate position but we have to understand that we have to work these people and put ourselves in the player’s shoes and think ‘what decision am I going to make here?’ You have to be fair and make sure everyone benefits. As expected, it’s come faster than I thought.”

Vithushan Ehantharajah is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo.

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