“Why did you decide to bowl off spin?”
It seems a silly question when answered by Notts Academy starlet Farhan Ahmed.
“Well I’ve got two brothers, one bowls left-arm seam and the other is a leg-spinner, so my dad said I have to bowl something different,” he replies, quite matter of factly.
The brothers to whom Farhan refers are Rehan, who took a five-wicket haul on his Test debut for England against Pakistan in Karachi, and Raheem, tipped by Rehan to be the best player of the three.
“You don’t want two leg-spinners in the same team,” Rehan confirmed prior to his England selection. “If we want to play for England, we’re going to have to do different things. We have all had dreams about all three of us playing.”
14-year-old Farhan is a precocious talent, even if that status does run in the family.
Across 2021 and 2022, he took 128 wickets for Notts’ pathway teams (every age group from U14s to Academy), and, in the most recent campaign, he claimed four scalps in a handful of Second XI appearances.
He has twice attended Bunbury Festival, a tournament for the best under-15 boys’ players in England, captaining the Midlands in 2022, and he is eligible to attend again in 2023.
In 2022, he was awarded the Sir Jack Hobbs Memorial Prize by The Cricket Society, given to the ‘most outstanding U15 schoolboy cricketer in England’, an accolade previously bestowed upon Haseeb Hameed.
Farhan possesses a steely determination to forge his own successful path in the game, and lofty ambitions which belie his age.
“My dad says to me and Raheem to take Rehan as a role model, but you also have to make a name for yourself and that is something I am keen to do,” he says.
“The last two years have definitely felt like progression. The performances have resulted in rewards - me being put in the Academy - and I’m just striving to reach the next level now, it has driven me to go on.
“If I have a good season next year, I want to be in and around the first team for the One Day Cup squad, and maybe get a game.
“If not, the year after. It depends on how the season goes. My sights are set on being a professional cricketer.”
His confidence is far from a boyish arrogance, but a genuinely held-belief in his own ability, validated by his return of wickets.
Farhan began bowling spin at the age of seven, and joined the Notts pathway as an eight-year-old in 2016.
Since then, he has taken 205 wickets in the County Age Groups, EPP and Academy, averaging 15.25 across all formats.
Rehan, by comparison, had 65 at 17.63 when he departed Trent Bridge for Grace Road, at the same age as Farhan is now.
On the club scene, the off-spinner made his Notts Premier League debut for Cavaliers and Carrington aged 13, and returned figures of 5/11 against a Mansfield Hosiery Mills side which included the likes of Dane Schadendorf.
His tally of NPL wickets before his 15th birthday stands at 25.
“Cavs have played a big role,” Farhan admits, reflecting on reasons for his rapid rise.
“I play with Fateh [Singh] and Rehan, which shows the development of players at the club. You have also got ex-pros who give out good advice on how to think, and I can bring that back to county cricket.
“My family is just really into cricket, so we’ll go to the club and practice any time.”
An insatiable desire to soak up knowledge, learn new skills and make the most of opportunities has stood Farhan in good stead as he has ticked off milestones during his time in the game to date.
One such instance was his Second XI debut in a T20 against Lancashire last year, in which he claimed the wickets of England U19’s George Bell and former Notts player Luke Wood.
When asked what makes him successful, the reply was equally simple: “I just work hard.
“I was nervous but more excited for the opportunity. There were lads that were playing with me, like Sammy King, who I’d played alongside before and had good relationships with.
“I am always confident that I can take wickets, but I don’t always want to show it because it can come across as overconfident.”
The natural challenge posed to a spinner growing in size and stature as much as reputation is how to control the trajectory and flight of the ball when releasing it from a higher point.
It is a hurdle Farhan is set on continually overcoming, with technical pointers from those there to support him. Whatsmore, winters of toil are providing him with an opportunity to add to his arsenal of deliveries before the season comes around once more.
“Something that Matt Wood and Chris Brown talk about [to keep control] is keeping my head straight at the crease as I get older, and that is helping.
“I just try new stuff, really, until March. At the moment I am working on bowling to left handers and how I can use the crease. In the winter, I try to develop and learn new tricks that I can be ready to use in the summer.”
Nicknamed ‘Wizard’ by Academy bowling coach Andy Pick, Farhan’s reference to magic is rather apt, but rest assured, the teenager’s exponential rise is no illusion.
With a hunger to press for further honours sooner rather than later, his journey is one worth watching. A story only just beginning.
England at Trent Bridge
Trent Bridge will host three international matches in 2023, with the sole Test Match of the Women’s Ashes taking place at Nottinghamshire’s historic home, before England’s men face New Zealand and Ireland in IT20 and ODI contests respectively.
Secure your seats at trentbridge.co.uk/internationals.