Aussies to take 16-year-old to school
Australia's fast bowlers are in awe of Pakistan's 16-year-old debutant-in-waiting, but warned there will be no children's concession cards handed out at The Gabba.
Mitchell Starc hadn't even started bowling and was still a wicketkeeper at the same age, while Josh Hazlewood was mucking around with his mates in the park and Pat Cummins playing second grade for Penrith.
Yet schoolkid sensation Naseem Shah is on the verge of becoming the youngest player to ever debut against Australia in the history of Test cricket.
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It seems everyone loves a young rookie - even those who are in the opposition - and the admiration is magnified by the fact he had to overcome the loss of his mother while he was in Perth last week a million miles from home.
However, Australia are clear there will be no schoolyard charity being shown at the Gabbatoir, with Starc declaring the kid will be given a bruising welcome to first-grade when he comes out to bat.
"As soon as you step over the line, it's a Test match. I don't care how old you are," said Starc.
"It's Test cricket. I'll be getting them before they get me.
"We're there to win games for Australia and likewise he'll be trying to win games for Pakistan. Whether you are 16 or 45, it's fair game."
The previous youngest debutant on Australian soil was home grown Ian Craig back in 1953 as a 17-year-old.
Australian nemesis Harbhajan Singh is the youngest debutant Australia ever encountered, also 17, back in 1998. Until now.
"It's crazy isn't it?" said Cummins, who can't imagine it even though he debuted at 18.
Hazlewood is equally stunned: "I was playing cricket with my mates at 16. It's a bit different to playing a Test."
Pakistan fast bowling coach and a former teenage debutant himself, Waqar Younis, said his only worry about the kid - who has played just seven first-class domestic games - being thrown into the furnace, is that his body is still growing.
Australian run-making juggernaut Steve Smith pulled no punches in declaring the brutal game plan he has in mind for young right-armer Shah come Thursday.
"Yeah, he's half my age," remarked Smith. "It'll be interesting … 16 is young.
"I dare say you'd be pretty nervous at 16 playing a Test match, particularly away from home.
"He's obviously got some skill if they're picking him. You don't take anyone lightly.
"For us we'll be trying to get as many overs into him as possible and trying to wear him down. He wouldn't be used to bowling lots and lots of overs, so that'll be the plan."
Losing your mother is a difficult thing for any underage teen to cope with, let alone being on the other side of the world away from family.
Shah had a day off bowling against Australia A to mourn the loss, but has bravely stayed on in Australia.
"He has taken our domestic scene by surprise and after the sad loss of his mother it took great guts to step out at the Optus in Perth and he produced a really good spell," said Pakistan teammate, Shan Masood.
"I hope he plays.
"Losing a parent is irreplaceable. The guts, the courage he showed to step out and do it for his family, his mother, team and country was quite commendable. That sort of attitude is what we are looking for in all of the guys.
"Hopefully he will be a star in the making.''
The great Waqar Younis is advising Shah, but admits he has some reservations.
"The only worry for me is about fitness, because he is so young. The bones are not really that developed yet," he said.
"That's a big worry. But he's got a beautiful action, nice, smooth run-up and hits the bat hard. He'll probably get more out of the Australian pitches than I did because he's got a very high arm action and hits the seam very, very well. He's also knows what he's doing and is very, very smart.
"When I first arrived in Australia it was a very intimidating place because these guys, and myself, we come from very small towns, literally villages."
YOUNGEST TEST DEBUTANTS IN AUSTRALIA
*Naseem Shah, 16y 277d, could debut on Thursday
Ian Craig, 17y 239d, Australia v South Africa, Melbourne, 6 February 1953
Tom Garrett, 18y 232d, Australia v England, Melbourne, 15 March 1877
Mohammad Ilyas, 18y 260d, Pakistan v Australia, Melbourne, 4 December 1964
Saleem Elahi, 18y 353d, Pakistan v Australia, Brisbane, 9 November 1995
YOUNGEST TEST DEBUTANTS AGAINST AUSTRALIA
Harbhajan Singh, 17y 265d, India v Australia, Bengaluru, 25 March 1998
AG Milkha Singh, 18y 13d, India v Australia, Chennai, 13 January 1960
Majid Khan, 18y 26d, Pakistan v Australia, Karachi, 24 October 1964
Shahid Afridi, 18y 235d, Pakistan v Australia, Karachi, 22 Oct 1998