Sandwell College Sport student Hamza Shaikh is set for more first team starts for Warwickshire CCC after a two-month sabbatical learning from one of India’s greatest batters.
Hamza has spent the winter at a cricket coaching camp in Mumbai under the expert tutelage of Waseem Jaffer – one of the highest run scorers in Indian domestic cricket history – and current batting coach of IPL side the Punjab Kings.
It was a chance for Hamza, who is in the first year of his Edgbaston Cricket Education Programme, to continue his development overseas and learn the art of facing spin under the sub-continent sun on dry, turning pitches.
“I couldn’t have asked for better advice,” said Hamza. “It was a privilege to learn from someone with Waseem’s experience and I feel my game has really come on, especially the tactical side and shot selection.
“You get slow, low turn on pitches there, the kind of conditions that are very hard to replicate here. It was an intensive few weeks but it’s been really helpful to get me into the habit of playing spin, predicting the spin, getting set for it, using my feet and also understanding options to defend or attack certain deliveries.
“The coaches also worked on the mental side and mental endurance. It was hot, fatigue creeps in, so the psychology of staying focused and making the right shot choices was also important.”
Hamza signed his first pro contract with Warwickshire last summer. That contract was extended by two years in October in recognition of his hard work, commitment and potential. He made his senior squad debut in last summer’s One-Day Cup and is now back in pre-season training.
Hamza – who has been with the Club from the under-10s to the Academy – made four List A appearances last summer and was well set on 25 on his debut against Sussex before being unluckily run out.
And having experienced his first season around the first team players, he’s keen to keep learning and pushing for more senior starts.
“Having a first season with the pro’s has really helped my game,” added Hamza. “I’ve been seeing how they go about their work, watching their routines and absorbing as much of their processes as possible.
“Some of the guys have been playing first class cricket for 15 years so I’m learning from the best and people who know the game inside out. They are a great bunch. The lads are happy for me to ask questions, give advice and inspire confidence in me as well. There’s always lots of encouragement for the younger players, it doesn’t feel like there’s a hierarchy.
“It is a big step up from the pathway and 2nds. You feel it with the intensity of the matches. I’ve had a taste of that now in the one day cup last year, I played four times and want to build on that this year, keep moving my game forward and push for more starting chances in the one day competition.
“Mentally I try not to build games up too much in my mind. It’s been a childhood dream of mine to play professional cricket for Warwickshire, but if I’m thinking that way when I walk out to the crease it can become overwhelming. Instead, I don’t build it up too much and treat it as just another game, so I can focus on my game and what I’ve learned.”