England v England Lions – Rob Key | Cricket News

Rehan Ahmed’s promotion to the Test team could have seemed a bit last-minute. But a day after Ahmed was informed by head coach Brendon McCullum of his selection for the Pakistan tour, men’s director of cricket Rob Key revealed that was always the plan.

A 15-man Test squad was selected in October without Ahmed’s name, who appeared in the Lions’ squad instead. A second on Test tour was to be organized to continue their development, after a training camp in Dubai, and an ongoing warm-up match between the Test team and the Lions in Abu Dhabi.

And while this didn’t necessarily prevent Ahmed from being selected, especially under skipper Ben Stokes, whose tenure included changing the way he worked, the fact that his call-up was official as such has been made, the first Test a week out is due to careful, essential planning.

“The plan for Rayhan was that we always wanted him in the team,” Key said in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. “It’s the best way to aid his development. He’s a serious talent, but he could be four or five years away from being a finished product. He’s nowhere near the finished article at this point.”

“But we hope that with McCullum and Stokes getting into the Test team and with their mindset… someone who bowls at Root. He becomes a full member of that team, he’s not just a net bowler. “But, we are confident that he can play and do a good job for us with bat and ball. This is our chance to channelize him in a way that will bring out the best in him.”

“Credit to the Test set-up, we think we have the best group of people to aid his development and we think he can be quick, not just the captain or Brendon, but every one of them involved with Players have a role to play in its development.”

The Test “XI” sent eight wicketless overs to 73 for 501 for seven on the first day of the three-day match at the Tolerance Oval, Ahmed helping to provide the exclamation mark of the Lions’ reply. His 10-ball quickfire 26 included three fours and two sixes, both off Liam Livingstone, who responded by pretending to be run out at the non-striker’s end in the same over, finally taking his side by more conventional means. before bringing the end. This meant that the Lions closed on the second day at 411 for nine. Haseeb Hameed opened the innings with fellow opener Tom Haines scoring 145 and 82.

Ahmed’s innings – what you’d expect from a bold, nonchalant, confident 18-year-old boy – can perhaps be extrapolated to the impression he made on McCullum, who was previously thought to be reticent about picking Ahmed . He had seen her or interacted solely with her. He has clearly been affected in the last 48 hours.

Nevertheless, with only three first-class appearances for Leicestershire the duty of looking after the child, who only turned 18 in August, was always part of the consideration.

Key revealed, “How we’ve done it is we wanted it to be more of a soft launch, not just announce him in a team and away you go, with all the media speculation.” “He’s capable of coming out here, we’ve seen him. Moe Bobatt [ECB performance director and head coach of the Lions] Knows him very well and has been a huge part in his development since he was a small child. Every one of these young players came that way with Bobcat, David Court [Player ID Lead], They have good information about these people, they have been in touch with the families and everything else. It was the best way we felt we could do a soft launch, so it was a bit before we knew he’d been picked in the team.”

There is another intriguing element to Ahmed. Even with a century and five wickets with the red ball, both of which he picked up in a County Championship match against Derbyshire at the end of the 2022 season, his white-ball game has clearly evolved a bit further . He even had offers for franchise cricket this winter. Had the schedule aligned 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 said that Ahmed is “going to make decisions going forward in his career and life”, around which the colored ball has attracted his fancy at various points of the year. And he has no hesitation in admitting that this Test cricket performance may have planted a big seed in Ahmed’s head.

“He will definitely be looking at franchise cricket but we have made him an offer he really can’t refuse – the chance to break into Test cricket as a pinnacle. If you can play in this form you can play anything.”

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

Jofra Archer is a more evolved 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 tenure is part of a gradual build-up to Archer’s workload – he will then move on to the ODI series in South Africa – and is perhaps the most open sign of collaboration between two entities with differing priorities, at least on the face of it. And, no doubt, it started after a chat between Key and Graeme Smith, the commissioner of SA20, over the summer.

“He’s a wildcard pick,” Key said. “You talk to the franchise owners and you come up with a plan, so we are having an alliance. That’s what they want, Jofra Archer not to be injured again for a long time. It’s easy if he bowls four overs in two can throw.” games for them, then move into the 50-over stuff, so they have competitive cricket and a build-up. The way the world works now, you have to work with these teams and you all have to align and want the same thing, to make sure Jofra plays to his potential as long as he can. The only way it’s going to work is if you all work together.”

At the age of 37, and having just retired as a professional from a playing career of 20 years mainly with Sussex, he is wired into the sport, using both his contacts and an ever-evolving ecosystem With understanding He has worldwide experience in a variety of domestic and franchise competitions. Beyond his undoubted personality, the key will depend on his rare temperament.

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

Of course, much of this is a very English luxury, whether it be guaranteeing interest in Test cricket from participants and punters, or simply the finances to encumber their property up to a point. The key is acknowledging them all, especially at a time when franchise competitions are only growing in numbers and drag.

“We are very fortunate in English cricket, but all these leagues don’t take away our heat. You can see why Rahul Dravid said how he can’t let his players play in these franchise leagues, because all these leagues It’ll just end.” Ranji Trophy.

“We’re in a very fortunate position but we have to realize that we have to work with these guys and put ourselves in the player’s place and think ‘what decision do I make here?’ You have to be fair and make sure everyone benefits. As expected, it came faster than I thought.”

Vithusan Anthraja is Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo

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