19-year-old Surrey-born Shoaib Bashir is among the latest recruits of the Royals academy to enter England’s county cricket setup. A right-arm off-spinner, Shoaib recently made his T20 and first-class debut for Somerset after a successful trial season with their second XI. It was a proud moment for us at the Royals, watching the youngster ply his trade among established cricketers in England’s county cricket circuit.

Shoaib’s is one of the many inspiring stories to have emerged from our academy over the years. Having been unsuccessful in breaking into the academy setup in some other counties, Shoaib eventually found himself enrolled in our academy at Surrey. His tenacity stood the test of time, as he let his hard work and talent do the talking. Four years on, he’s now bowling to the likes of Alastair Cook, one of England’s legendary cricketers of his time and a phenomenon in the domestic circuit too.

"Quite a special feeling. His record is unbelievable. The patience he showed…it’s something else. I’m very privileged to be bowling at him," Bashir said after Alastair Cook became his first red-ball opponent, as quoted by The Cricketer.

Shoaib joins a list of some highly-rated upcoming cricketers in England to have come out of our academies across the UK - namely Ollie Pope, Phil Salt, Ryan Patel, Amar Virdi, Dan Douthwaite, Tom Lawes - who have spent hours sharpening their skills at the academy over the years, under the guidance of our Head of Academy Coaching, Siddhartha Lahiri.

Currently, young players like Krish Patel are playing for the Surrey Academy & Surrey 2nd team, while Under-17 players like Adam Fox, Alex French, Aryaman Varma, Seb Stuart Reckling, Ansh Bansal have found deserving spots in the Surrey 18 team.

“I have been training with Sid (Siddhartha Lahiri - Head of Academy Coaching) and the Rajasthan Royals academy since I was 11 and the coaches have been excellent. They have helped my game to excel in all departments, especially my batting where I was always encouraged to adopt a fearless approach without worrying about results. One of my highlights of training at the academy is meeting and talking to the great Shane Warne on the art of spin bowling. I was lucky enough to bowl a few balls while he was watching and he gave me a few valuable tips!”, Shoaib exclaimed in a candid chat a few days after his first-class debut.

At the Royals, our vision of “transforming society through cricket and cricket through innovation” has led us to set up a network of academies and high-performance training centres across India, the UK and the UAE. The purpose of doing this is to go deep into the grassroots system and provide a platform for aspiring cricketers to become top-level professionals. It means building world-class infrastructure facilities, a robust training programme with the latest technological advancements to adapt to modern-day cricket, and having an esteemed panel of coaching experts to impart the right kind of knowledge. These players become a part of the Royals way of coaching which comprises one-of-a-kind techniques and drills, interactive one-on-one sessions with the coaches, and a process-driven approach keeping the long-term goal in mind.

Stories like that of Shoaib are a classic example of how investing early in the growth and development of these budding cricketers can yield results in the years that come.