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Page last updated at 16:32 GMT, Monday, 22 February 2010

Opportunity knocks for England's new recruits

Craig Kieswetter, Ajmal Shahzad, Michael Carberry & James Tredwell
Kieswetter, Shahzad, Carberry and Tredwell are out to impress in Bangladesh

By Sam Sheringham

England's cricket tour of Bangladesh may not set the pulses racing like an Ashes series or a contest against big hitters like India or South Africa but for four men the next couple of months represent a massive opportunity.

While the likes of Andrew Strauss and James Anderson are keeping their sofas warm during their controversial rest periods, the door is open for wicketkeeper-batsman Craig Kieswetter, all-rounder Ajmal Shahzad, batsman Michael Carberry and spinner James Tredwell to stake their claims for a place in the side.

606: DEBATE

While Shahzad made his debut in a Twenty20 international against Pakistan on Saturday, the other three are uncapped in all forms of the game and will be hoping to be given a chance in Bangladesh, as England take on the hosts in three one-day internationals and a two-Test series.

And with a World Twenty20 tournament, a full English summer and an Ashes tour down under all scheduled for 2010, all four are desperate to make an instant impact. BBC Sport caught up with the new faces of English cricket.

CRAIG KIESWETTER

Craig Kieswetter's last-minute call-up to the one-day squad is widely being viewed as further evidence of the England team becoming a South Africa second string in all but name.

Craig Kieswetter
Kieswetter insists he is no mercenary having chosen to play for England

The Johannesburg-born wicketkeeper-batsman has followed in the footsteps of Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott after a flurry of eye-catching knocks for Somerset and England Lions.

National selector Geoff Miller has since warned that England must be "careful" about picking too many South Africans, but the 22-year-old is keen to stress that his case is a little bit different.

"I was born with both passports - my mother is British, and my father South African, says Kieswetter. "I spent a couple of months every year living in the UK.

"Throughout my childhood I have been part of two different nationalities. When I turned 18, I decided the UK was a place where I wanted to live and wanted to play."

Like Trott, Kieswetter played for South Africa at under-19 level before moving to England to further his career.

But, unlike Pietersen, the 22-year-old said his decision to switch allegiance had nothing to do with his opportunities being limited by the South African quota system.

"For me, it was never a political issue," says Kieswetter, who denies reports that South Africa captain Graeme Smith attempted to lure him back.

"It was purely down to the fact that throughout my childhood I loved living in the UK. It was that I wanted to make it home and I'm proud to call it my home."

Kieswetter was spotted by Somerset while playing for Millfield School in 2007 and has since formed a destructive opening partnership with Marcus Trescothick in the one-day and Twenty20 sides.

And, with wicketkeepers Matt Prior and Steve Davies already selected, it is as an explosive opening batsman that England's selectors may well see his immediate future.

The youngster's full England call-up came five days after completing his four-year qualification period and followed some stellar displays on the England Lions tour of United Arab Emirates.

CRAIG KIESWETTER
Age: 22
County: Somerset
First-class debut: 2007
Batting Av: 40.25
Catches: 142

Kieswetter compiled scores of 40 not out, 77 not out and 50, before sealing his place with 81 off 66 balls against the full England side in Abu Dhabi.

"The way he played against us, and the way he played for the Lions against Pakistan has opened everyone's eyes and he deserves inclusion into the senior squads," said Paul Collingwood, England's Twenty20 captain.

"He's an exciting player and he hits the ball extremely hard, which is great for one-day and Twenty20 cricket. He deserves his chance."

AJMAL SHAHZAD

When Ajmal Shahzad heard he had not been picked for the England Lions tour of United Arab Emirates, he was so disappointed he phoned up coach Dave Parsons to ask where he had gone wrong.

A breakthrough season at Yorkshire, and a spell with the England Performance Programme (EPP) in South Africa, appeared to have gone unnoticed.

Ajmal Shahzad
Shahzad was the first British-born Asian to play for Yorkshire

Told to hang fire, keep fit and wait for a phone call, it was not until two weeks later that the 24-year-old Yorkshire all-rounder, tipped by former England captain Michael Vaughan as one to watch, realised that bad news was actually good news.

He was not going to the Emirates with the Lions because he was going to Bangladesh with England, as a full member of the Test and one-day squads.

"People were consoling me back at Yorkshire - an England call-up still seemed a million miles away," recalls Shahzad. "But then I got a call from Geoff Miller as soon as he landed from South Africa. It was just brilliant to know that all the hard effort I have put in over the last two and a half years had paid off."

A hostile bowler and aggressive middle-order batsman, who grew up wanting to be the next Shahid Afridi, Shahzad is not lacking in self-belief. But he has had to show remarkable patience and commitment to make his mark.

Having become the first British-born Asian to play for Yorkshire in May 2004, he suffered a stress fracture to his back in his very next game, which kept him out for nearly a year.

A succession of niggling injuries and the formidable array of fast bowlers ahead of him at Yorkshire kept him on the fringes until 2009 when, granted a run in the side by Tim Bresnan's England call-up, he claimed 40 championship wickets and scored 445 runs.

"I got given a game, and did well; I got given another game and did well," says Shahzad. "I made it my aim to get my name on the team sheet. I've been given that chance now and I just wanted to make the best of the opportunity. I got a few wickets and a few runs, gained confidence and it kicked on from there."

His county form earned him a call-up to the EPP in South Africa, where he impressed coach Andy Flower by taking regular wickets in tour matches and troubling members of the Test side with his full-blooded bowling in the nets.

AJMAL SHAHZAD
Age: 24
County: Yorkshire
First-class debut: 2006
Batting Av: 30.72
Bowling Av: 35.03

Handed his debut in the Twenty20 game against Pakistan, Shahzad was given an immediate grounding in the highs and lows of international cricket.

Having snared a pair of wickets in his first over, he was smashed for two sixes by Abdul Razzaq as Pakistan sealed a four-wicket win.

Shahzad, who has been preparing for Bangladesh by studying footage of their players on YouTube, describes his bowling as "aggressive" and his batting as "flamboyant".

When asked the Flintoff question, about whether he can replace the totemic all-rounder in the hearts and minds of England fans, his confident response reveals plenty about a player determined to take his opportunity and cause a splash.

"Look I get compared to Flintoff a lot and it's an honour to be compared to him. What he's done for England cricket is magnificent. But I want to be myself, I want to be Ajmal Shahzad and Ajmal Shahzad can bring a lot to the party."

MICHAEL CARBERRY

Hampshire left-hander Michael Carberry looks nailed on to step into Andrew Strauss's spikes at the top of the Test batting order.

The 29-year-old has been identified as the next batsman in line and came close to making a debut when he was called up as cover for the injured Paul Collingwood in South Africa. Although the Durham all-rounder recovered to play in the final two Tests, Carberry spent enough time with the squad to impress Strauss and coach Andy Flower.

Andrew Strass (left) & Michael Carberry
Carberry looks set to replace Strauss in the England Test side

An attacking batsman and agile fielder, Carberry earned his call-up after cracking 1,251 runs at 69.5 in the 2009 County Championship season, the highlight a fluent 204 against Warwickshire at the Rose Bowl.

His credentials have been talked up by no lesser figure than Shane Warne, who, in criticising Strauss for taking a break from the side, tipped Carberry to give the selectors a major dilemma.

"Thanks Warney," Carberry laughs when reminded of his former Hampshire captain's comments. "I'm very honoured to be mentioned in that light by Shane Warne. I take the positives from it. It shows me what I've achieved in the last four years. He sees something in my game that will cause some headaches.

"From my point of view, that's my aim - to cement a place. And unfortunately in order to do that you are going to cause some headaches. If I get my chance I will put my best foot forward and take it from there."

Carberry's route to the pinnacle of the game has been anything but smooth.

He played for England Under-19s in 1999 and joined Surrey in 2001, but struggled to get a look-in at the all-conquering side of that era.

A move to Kent in early 2003 proved equally frustrating as an influx of Kolpak players pushed Carberry to the fringes.

MICHAEL CARBERRY
Age: 29
County: Hampshire
First-class debut: 2001
Batting Av: 42.27

"It has been frustrating at times," he says. "When I was just about to leave Kent, I was even contemplating walking away from the game that I love. Simply because I'd heard all the excuses I possibly could and I just felt that somewhere along the line the system didn't want me to play.

"People close to me: my family, my mum, my best friends, still believed in my talent and encouraged me to keep going. The rest is history."

Carberry left Kent to join Hampshire at the end of the 2006 season. Finally given the regular cricket he craved, and liberated by the inspirational leadership of Warne, he flourished into one of the most feared attacking batsmen in the Championship.

"Warney was just what I needed as a captain," Carberry says. "He believes in going out there and expressing yourself and not having a fear of failure.

"For a lot of my career I've been playing cricket to try to get another game. I'd heard all the old excuses and niceties that I could possibly go through. I think I needed someone to say 'look I believe you can play, here you go, run with it'."

Carberry is well-placed to assess the threat posed by Bangladesh, having played against them for England's A side in early 2007. He also saw signs of progress in the recent series against India, when Shakib Al Hasan's young side gave the world's number one team a real scare in the opening Test.

"They've got a couple of good quicks, and a couple of their batsmen are starting to find their feet and put some scores together," he said. "It would be silly of us to take them lightly and I wouldn't expect us to."

JAMES TREDWELL

Off-spinning all-rounder James Tredwell comes with quite some billing.

Kent captain Rob Key once said other spinners in the England squad weren't fit to lace his boots, a comment that has perhaps acted as more of a hindrance than a help to a young tweaker trying to hone his skills in a supposedly dying art.

James Tredwell
Tredwell toured New Zealand with England in 2008

But if Tredwell's career has sometimes flattered to deceive, a haul of 69 Championship wickets last season suggests Key's hyperbole may not have been misplaced.

Tredwell, now 27, showed himself to be a genuine match-winner, snaffling 10 wickets in Kent's win over Northamptonshire and a stunning 8-66 against Glamorgan as Key's men stormed back into the top flight.

So why has everything suddenly clicked?

"I went to India in the off-season last year and picked up a couple of little technical things with my foot position at the crease and front arm in delivery," says Tredwell.

"I went into the season absolutely confident in my game and my technique, which has a massive influence on your performance. I made a good start to the season and it just seemed to roll on from one game to the next."

Tredwell's talent was spotted at an early age - he captained England Under-19s and was elevated to the ECB National Academy squad in 2003. His best performances tended to come in the one-day arena, earning him a call-up to the England squad for the tour of New Zealand in 2008.

Although he didn't get a game on that tour, he kept himself in the selectors' minds with impressive displays for England Lions and Kent, with a career-best unbeaten 123 against the touring Kiwis enhancing his claims to be thought of as a genuine all-rounder.

As one of only two spinners in the England touring party in Bangladesh, Tredwell has leapt ahead of Monty Panesar and Adil Rashid in the pecking order. But perhaps the biggest obstacle in Tredwell's path could be England's undisputed number one tweaker, his fellow off-spinner Graeme Swann, whose sensational debut year in Test cricket briefly catapulted him as high as third in the ICC Test rankings.

JAMES TREDWELL
Age: 27
County: Kent
First-class debut: 2001
Batting Av: 23.16
Bowling Av: 36.78

Tredwell says he credits Swann with "enlivening people's belief" in finger spin, but makes a persuasive case for the two of them working in tandem.

"Graeme is a really big spinner of the ball," he says. "I'm a bit more of a flight and guile type of bowler. I like to get the ball up in the air and beat the batsman in the air as well as off the pitch. Swanny obviously does that as well but probably not to the same extent that I do."

While Tredwell is likely to be given his chance in the warm-up games and one-dayers, he may struggle to persuade coach Andy Flower and new captain Alastair Cook to field two spinners in the Tests. On England's last visit to the region six years ago, the spin duo of Ashley Giles and Gareth Batty accounted for just three of the 40 wickets to fall.

Tredwell is unperturbed.

"Six years ago there was a perception that Bangladesh were susceptible to the short ball and that seemed to be a successful ploy on that tour," he says. "It will be interesting to see if that has changed or not.

"I'll be going with my eyes open and if I get my chance I'll be trying to do my best. Let's hope it turns because that gives me a better chance doesn't it."



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see also
Kieswetter earns England call-up
20 Feb 10 |  England
Big-hitting Razzaq sinks England
20 Feb 10 |  England
Shahzad helps bowl out Hampshire
11 Aug 09 |  Counties
England call on Carberry as cover
30 Dec 09 |  England
Tredwell eyes England Test spot
12 Jan 10 |  Kent
Cook stands in for jaded Strauss
18 Jan 10 |  England
Warne blasts Strauss Test absence
08 Feb 10 |  England
Morgan looks to the future
18 Feb 10 |  England
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket
England in UAE & Bangladesh 2010
23 Feb 10 |  Cricket


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