By his own admission, 2018 was a disappointing season for Haseeb Hameed.
He went into it with expectations high, having shone for England in their Test series in India, only to be removed from the side by a hand injury.
But his form at the start of last season fell below the standards he had set in 2016, missing out on selection for England’s Test squad. His form struggled to pick up all season long, not making a single century and managing just three half-centuries.
A positive winter tour to Dubai with Lancashire has given Hameed confidence and he also opened for the England Lions alongside new Lancashire signing Keaton Jennings.
Hameed says he has worked hard with his Dad to make improvements to his game, and has gone back to basics.
“By experiencing the highs of 2016 and the lows of last year, you look at things in hindsight at what I might have done differently,” Hameed said.
“I find that when I have worked with my Dad and follow his guidance, my game has been in better shape.
“You need that one person, which is something that has hit home to me. It is an important relationship. You can sometimes fall into the mindset of ‘I have played for England so I know what I’m doing’.
“We have worked together over the winter to make me a better player. I am still trying to continue doing what I do well.”
The success Hameed enjoyed in 2016, making over 1000 runs in his first full season of first-class cricket, was characterised on an ability to occupy the crease for long periods of time.
It was a trait that eluded him last season, with some suggesting that bowlers had highlighted potential weaknesses in his game.
Over the winter, Hameed says he picked out areas he needs to improve his batting and is confident going into the new campaign.
“I feel in a good place right now with my batting. I feel I’ve made progress. I’m in a better shape than I’ve ever been going into a season.
“As a player I always look at areas I need to improve on and I try to strike the balance at working on certain areas but also sticking to the things I am good at.
“You have to recognise what you are really good at and stick to that, otherwise you can be hit with the illusion that there are things wrong when it isn’t often the case.”
Bolton-born Hameed opened the batting with Alex Davies in the Championship last season, but head coach Glen Chapple has confirmed that new signing Jennings will replace Davies at the top of the order, with the keeper moving down to number three.
The season begins with five County Championship games before the Royal London One-Day Cup kicks in. Hameed played in the 50-over format for the first time last season, a transition that many onlookers highlighted as a potential cause of his downturn in form.
Hameed doesn’t agree.
“Last year people thought that it was the one-day cricket affecting me, that wasn’t the case,” he said.
“I can take a lot of confidence from the pre-season tour, where we trained red ball one day and straight into white ball and I could score runs, and the same again when we went back.
“Being able to adapt between the two is pretty easy for me because I have played a lot of one-day cricket growing up.
“I am still extremely young and I don’t like to set limits on what I can achieve. I don’t see why I can’t continue to adapt and work on my game and play all three formats for England in the future.”
England’s struggles, especially at the top of the order, in Australia and New Zealand over the winter have many believing doors are open for those candidates around the England mix, such as Hameed and Jennings, who can start the season well.
The 21-year-old says that, from his perspective, Lancashire is his only focus and anything else will come with improved performances.
“My mindset was the same two years ago as it was last year and is this year,” Hameed said.
“It is to play to the best of my abilities and the rest will sort itself out. Because of how things went last year, people may say it was because I was under the spotlight, I don’t see it that way.”