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Cricket world set to watch 'fantastic' Naseem Shah on big stage

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From Lower Dir to top tier, the Naseem Shah story (2:38)

Pakistan's 16-year old fast-bowling prodigy talks about his journey in cricket (2:38)

What were you doing at 16?

Barring a dramatic late change of circumstances, Naseem Shah will be making his Test debut against Australia at the Gabba with the task of trying to stop Steven Smith.

There was a glint in captain Azhar Ali's eye and a cheeky smile when he was pressed on Shah's potential inclusion. He did not want to reveal Pakistan's XI until the toss but gave away enough. "We are definitely looking to play him, we'll announce the side tomorrow but he will definitely be part of it."

Shah, who has just seven first-class matches under his belt, has been the talk of the tour from even before he landed in Australia, with footage of his exploits in a short domestic career going viral. When he let it rip against Australia A in Perth everyone sat up and took notice. Waqar Younis, the Pakistan bowling coach, has compared his smooth, flowing action to Dennis Lillee's. However, whatever happens on the field in Brisbane, this tour has already been a show of immense character from Shah, whose mother died the day the Australia A game started.

ALSO READ: Naseem Shah finds inner strength to bounce back from personal tragedy

At 16 years and 279 days, Shah will become the youngest Test debutant in Australia and against Australia. "Generally it's only Pakistan who can do that, throw in a 16-year-old," Michael Vaughan, who will be commentating on the series for Fox Cricket, said.

Wasim Akram, who also made his Test debut as a teenager, believes age is just a number. "In my opinion, if someone has pace and has first-class wickets under his belt he's ready to go. It's exciting, I saw his spell with the pink ball, he's sharp and I saw him in first-class cricket before he arrived here."

Azhar knows Shah better than most, having been his captain at domestic level, and recalled the day when Shah first caught everyone's eye. "A friend of mine had an academy in Lahore and he came there first and someone asked to see his bowling. [Shah] was just in normal shoes, not even spikes, and he said 'okay, I'll watch' and the first couple of deliveries he was very quick. Straightaway he said this guy has potential.

"I saw him in the nets when he was bowling for Central Punjab at Gaddafi Stadium. He caught everyone's eye straightaway. Before that, he was playing at the junior level so I had seen his videos, and then later I faced him in the nets and gave him a match. He had impressed straightaway not only with his pace but with his skills, temperament and his knowledge of his own bowling as well; he reads batsmen very quickly. Not many players can reach that standard that early. There are exceptions and he's one of them. Hopefully he can have a successful career."

He will likely be part of a three-man pace attack, unless the big call is made to leave out legspinner Yasir Shah, which could lead to a hefty workload, especially if Pakistan can't find a way past Smith, but Azhar won't be treating Shah with kid gloves. "The good thing about him is he's very fit," Azhar said. "He has overs in his belt. I'm sure he can do that in Tests as well. There's no doubting in his fitness or his skills."

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Australia have done as much research on him as possible with the short amount of footage available and tapped into those who played in the Australia A game, which included Joe Burns and Travis Head of the Test side. Captain Tim Paine acknowledged the excitement being generated.

"I think I played against a few [16-year-olds] last week in club cricket, but certainly at Test level it's a bit unusual," he said. "By the looks of him he is a really exciting talent. Pakistan have a knack of finding these young fast bowlers and he looks like another one who will add to that rich history of fast bowlers they seem to produce.

"We've made sure we've looked as much footage as possible of their pace attack because we don't want to be surprised by something we see. Some of them are unknown, but that's professional sport and you have to prepare accordingly."

Shah is not the only young quick Pakistan have in their squad, either, and he's likely to be joined by 19-year-old Shaheen Afridi with another, Muhammad Musa waiting in the wings.

"It's really good to see, Pakistan always produced good fast bowlers but in the last four, five years it's been missing with not many quick bowlers," Azhar said. "To do well overseas especially, places like Australia and South Africa, you need quick bowlers. We are lucky enough to have them now and they have a big future ahead of them. We are really looking forward to seeing them in this series."

And so is the cricketing world.