In an unexpected turn of events, England has raised eyebrows by including the relatively unknown Somerset off-spinner, Shoaib Bashir, in their Test squad for the upcoming tour of India. Bashir, a 20-year-old with a mere 10 first-class wickets at an average of 67, finds himself in the company of two other uncapped players, Lancashire left-arm spinner Tom Hartley, and Surrey quick Gus Atkinson.
The decision to bring in Bashir reflects England’s strategic move to counter the threat posed by Indian spinner Axar Patel, who troubled the English batsmen during their 2021 tour. Despite his limited experience and modest statistics, Bashir’s unique bowling action, reminiscent of Patel’s, seems to have caught the selectors’ attention.
The squad also sees the return of wicketkeeper-batsman Ben Foakes, who will compete with Jonny Bairstow for the gloves. Vice-captain Ollie Pope and primary spinner Jack Leach make a comeback following their recovery from long-term injuries. The experienced Ben Stokes, recovering from recent knee surgery, is expected to lead the squad.
England’s spin arsenal includes Bashir, Hartley, and Rehan Ahmed, with Joe Root offering a part-time spin option. The emphasis on tall spinners in Bashir and Hartley appears to mirror England’s intention to replicate Axar Patel’s new-ball spin strategy.
However, questions arise about the selection of players with relatively modest records, especially considering the omission of more experienced options like Liam Dawson and all-formatter Will Jacks. The bowling lineup comprises four seamers—James Anderson, Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood, and Atkinson.
As England gears up for the five-Test tour with matches scheduled from January 25 to March 11, the inclusion of these emerging players introduces an element of surprise and anticipation. While the decision to go with young spinners showcases England’s strategic adaptability, the spotlight will be on how these newcomers fare against the formidable Indian side on their home turf.
Stokes (C), Rehan, Anderson, Atkinson, Bairstow, Shoaib Bashir, Brook, Crawley, Duckett, Foakes, Hartley, Leach, Pope, Robinson, Root, Wood.