Haseeb Hameed handed England debut amid Cook retirement talk
Teenager becomes captain's tenth opening partner since retirement of Andrew Strauss
Teenage opening batsman Haseeb Hameed will make his England debut alongside Alastair Cook against India this winter, amid doubts about Cook's long-term future as captain of the side.
The 19-year-old will be Cook's tenth opening partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in 2012 and only the second teenager to play for England since Brian Close made his debut in 1949 – the other was Ben Hollioake in 1997.
Hameed was picked for the tour of Bangladesh, but did not play and will now make his debut in Rajkot, replacing Ben Duckett at the top of the order with Cook's previous opening partner dropping to four after Gary Ballance was left out of the side.
News of Hameed's debut and Stuart Broad's 100th cap was overshadowed by comments from Cook, who will lead England for a record 55th time this week, in an interview with The Cricketer magazine.
Asked how much longer he would lead the side, the batsman said: "Deep down I don't know how much longer I am going to carry on. It could be two months; it could be a year. I do look forward to the day when hopefully I can play a Test match as just a batter, there's no doubt about that."
He said he would relish the chance to stand at slip and not have to worry about making decisions.
Ahead of the first Test Cook tried to defuse the situation, insisting that he had simply given an "honest answer" and would decide his future after the series, which few people expect England to win.
"Cook meets with Strauss, the team director, at the end of every series but this tour to India does feel like a natural break point if he decides to walk away," says Nick Hoult of the Daily Telegraph. "But Cook also has time on his side with a lengthy period of rest between this tour and the start of next summer to ponder his future in the cold light of day – and he would like to return to Australia to erase the memory of his 5-0 whitewash in the last Ashes series there."
Cook's first tour as captain was to India and there would be a "degree of symmetry" if he did stand down after the current series, says Simon Hughes of The Times. "Cook has been seeking advice on the issue of when best to step down as captain. An England victory in India may be the only outcome that tempts him to remain in the job through next summer."
But that outcome looks unlikely. India are the world's number one team and have not lost at home since England's tour four years ago. This England side appear weaker than the 2012 vintage with a lack of solidity in the top order and concerns over the bowling attack.
This means that the decision to pick Hameed is of "greater relevance" to Cook than his long-term plans as captain, says Ali Martin in The Guardian.
Hameed will become England's fifth-youngest Test cricketer. His challenge will be to provide the kind of stability alongside Cook that none of the previous ten opening batsmen have managed since 2012.
There are hopes that Hameed could be the player to cement a spot alongside Cook at the top of the order, says Martin. "Cook, like Hameed, made his Test debut for England in India, doing so in Nagpur in 2006 aged 21 years and 67 days. The 31-year-old Essex batsman has since gone on to make 10,688 Test runs but believes his new opening partner to have greater ability than he possessed at the same age."
That, though, begs the question of why he was overlooked for the Tests earlier in the tour. "It is a reflection of England's selection uncertainty that Hameed has been thrown in at the deep end, when he could have been given a two-Test series in Bangladesh for a marginally easier debut," says Scyld Berry of the Telegraph.