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Rewording: England's inexperienced spin bowlers should have an opportunity to play at home after performing well in India.
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Rewording: England’s inexperienced spin bowlers should have an opportunity to play at home after performing well in India.


In India, this was a routine but exciting win at home, with a new group of players. In the final game in Ranchi, two players stood out: Dhruv Jurel, 23 years old, who impressed with his wicketkeeping in just two matches; and Shubman Gill, 24 years old, who is proving himself at the No. 3 spot while improving his average in Test matches.

Then there is the 22-year-old Yashasvi Jaiswal, who is averaging a touch under 70, has the remarkable Maidan-made origin story and raises his arms like Jude Bellingham because he knows he also has it all. These boys, bred on Indian Premier League glitz, can also dead-bat it like grandpa said to.

As Jurel scored the runs that led to their victory, it was a reminder that for some on the opposing team, these are prime days. Standing a short distance away was 24-year-old Tom Hartley, while just moments before, 20-year-old Shoaib Bashir had been on the field.

It has been said elsewhere, but let’s go again: it is remarkable how we got here, with these two uncapped before the tour and selected on something close to a hunch. Hartley will enter the final match of the series as its leading wicket-taker, while Bashir, with 12 in two matches, has more first-class wickets for England than Somerset.

The focus now shifts to what lies ahead for this duo, as their progress may face obstacles upon their return to county cricket. Spinners have limited assurances in this arena. Hartley will rejoin Lancashire and potentially have to compete with Nathan Lyon, while Bashir will have to compete against his friend Jack Leach in a showdown at Taunton.

Brendon McCullum expressed frustration that players were not given chances at the county level, highlighting their importance in the future. Despite limited playing time, England will still consider them for selection, relying on their intuition which has proved successful on this tour.

It is all very confusing. In the past, England lost a series against India with a score of 3-1, causing an examination of their difficulties with spin: they had trouble both playing it and bowling it. A group of young spinners selected for that tour, including Dom Bess in the main team and Amar Virdi, Mason Crane, and Matt Parkinson as backups, have not been given much playing time with England since and have also faced challenges in their respective county teams.

On this occasion, the final score may be even more unfavorable, but the young spinners, including Rehan Ahmed, will be the uplifting narrative of the first series loss in two years.

Ben Stokes is the obvious man to thank, the guy who gets the slow stuff, combining wholesome-dad empathy with tactical nous, ending a run of England captains who did not really know what to do with something that requires, more than anything, a little bit of love. At times the affection has possibly gone too far, with Bashir given a 31-over spell on the second day in Ranchi when it was clear he would have plenty more work to do come India’s chase.

We will now discuss which spinner will take on the solo role for the summer. In the recent past, Leach has played in every Test match during the current regime, but this has become uncommon due to multiple injuries. He missed eight out of the last nine games, including the Ashes due to a back stress fracture and the tour of India due to a knee injury.

It would be foolish to dismiss him, however. Leach has successfully recovered from a skull fracture, reworked his technique, experienced being selected and dropped multiple times, contracted an infection, and has been challenged by Rishabh Pant and Travis Head. Yet, amidst all of this, he has managed to take 126 wickets in Test matches.

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England’s Jack Leach bowls during the second day of the first Test against India

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Hartley has a strong delivery that often passes the right-handed batsman’s outside edge, displaying his skill and confidence with the bat. He has also proven the ability to bounce back quickly from a rough performance, as shown in his debut match against Jaiswal. When watching Bashir, it brings to mind the words of Jack Black’s character in the film School of Rock: “You’ve got it. I don’t even know what it is, but you got it.” Among them all, it is Ahmed, the teenage player, who has the most potential and shows a clear confidence that makes him a great fit for England’s squad, particularly under the leadership of Stokes.

All three have had star turns in their Test careers but, having featured exclusively in the subcontinent, remain raw. The challenge at home as the lone spinner is to be the bowling attack’s goalkeeper. Stay covert while others do most of the work, nail the boring stuff and win the game when required. It is a different sort of pressure to working in India, but pressure nonetheless. A fully functioning Leach remains the safest option to turn back to, but they do not really do safe nowadays.

Leach is injured and Ahmed has returned home due to personal reasons, giving Bashir and Hartley a chance to play in Dharamsala. The weather forecast indicates that the conditions will be similar to those in early-season county matches. This match not only presents the opportunity for a closer 3-2 scoreline, but also for Bashir and Hartley to showcase their skills in more familiar conditions.

Who knows what could happen? If they excel for their national team, they may even earn a spot on their county’s team.

Source: theguardian.com