England’s inexperienced bowlers have notably outshone their experienced Indian counterparts in the opening two Tests of the series, and young talent Rehan Ahmed attributes his success to the team atmosphere and the inspiring leadership of Ben Stokes.
Even though the series is currently tied 1-1, it is a notable turnaround that England have emerged as the superior force in spin bowling between the two teams. What is even more surprising is that the trio of Ahmed, Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir have collectively claimed more wickets (33) than the formidable Indian spin quartet comprising stalwarts like Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav, They have managed a total of 23 windows between them.
“That shows how fantastic the team atmosphere is,” said 19-year-old Ahmed, quoted by the BBC.
“Tommy and Bash, you’ve seen them come in and not be nervous and that’s a credit to the team.
“The environment and the leadership we have makes you forget about the players you’re playing against; we just focus on what we have to do.”
Rehan Ahmed made his debut in the first Test of the series in Hyderabad and was part of the training camp ahead of the series in Abu Dhabi. The teenager highlighted the positive atmosphere in the locker room as one of the main factors behind the team’s good performances and also recalled a touching gesture from his captain, Ben Stokes, during his time in the United Arab Emirates.
According to Ahmed, Stokes’ astute man-management skills extend beyond cricket. As a British Asian and devout Muslim in Bazball’s high-energy atmosphere, Ahmed revealed that he faced no obstacles when it came to taking time off for Friday prayers, even if it meant sacrificing training sessions.
“I remember one time in Abu Dhabi where there was a rest day with the team on a Friday,” Ahmed said.
“We had Friday prayers. Obviously Bash (Bashir) and I were there. I texted Wayno (Wayne Bentley), the team manager, asking if we could miss this day because we needed to pray.
“Stokes messaged me straight away and said, ‘come see me anytime about this sort of thing, I completely understand.’ And yes, he’s true to his word.
“Every time I pray, he is very respectful and very understanding. Everyone is on this tour,” Ahmed recalled.