Here’s a trivia question: of players with more than 1,000 first-class runs, who has the highest average?
Most cricket fans would guess Don Bradman, and up until recently, they’d have been right. But, for the time being, the Australian legend has been pushed into second place by 18-year-old Afghan Baheer Shah, whose average currently reads 121.77.
The start to his career has been truly astonishing, unsurpassed in the history of cricket. He racked up 256 not out in his first professional innings, the second highest debut score of all time, before notching his first triple-century five innings later, becoming the second youngest first-class triple centurion, behind only Pakistani great Javed Miandad.
“That was an unforgettable moment for me,” Baheer said. “I stayed at the wicket for two days, staying very comfortable. I worked on my fitness before the tournament, and the coaches taught me how to bat well. For everyone whenever they get the best score in their life it’s a very enjoyable, exciting moment.”
After four matches, Baheer had 831 runs in six innings, eclipsing Bill Ponsford’s record of 741, and were it not for a washout, which left him stranded on 9 not out, may have matched the Australian as being the quickest to 1,000 first-class runs. But despite all his success, Baheer comes across as very humble, and always looking to credit his success to others.
Highest first-class batting averages (for players with at least 1,000 first-class runs)
|2||Sir Donald Bradman||Aus||95.14|
“It’s difficult to get the opportunity play for our domestic sides, so I’m very thankful for my family and for my friends and my head coach for their support,” he said. “I only thought I would try my best for my side, so to get 1,000 runs was amazing.”
Since coming to New Zealand, Baheer has continued his excellent form, notching a century as well as a score of 98 against a strong Central Districts XI. “I’ve started very well in the warm-up matches in Napier,” he said. “They were good sides with first-class players, but we played four matches and won all four. It’s a very good chance for every youngster to promote his career so I’m trying very hard to have a good performance in this World Cup.”
Playing in New Zealand will be a new experience for the youngster, but adapting his game is something Baheer relishes. “I like to play in different and challenging situations,” he said. “There are a lot of changeable situations, but I only want to stay at the wicket and take the pressure on myself and away from my partners. My favourite player is Hashim Amla because he is very calm and plays very well in difficult situations. I just want to keep calm and go forwards.”
Baheer has already emulated Amla, the only South African to make a Test triple century, in one way. If the start to his career is anything to go by, we will also soon be discussing him in similarly hallowed terms.