NOVICE spinner Shoaib Bashir was on Monday (11) named in England’s 16-man squad for the five-Test series against India, along with fellow uncapped bowlers Gus Atkinson and Tom Hartley.
Bashir, 20, made his first-class debut for Somerset only in June and has taken 10 wickets at an average of 67. But he impressed on a recent training camp with the second-string England Lions in the United Arab Emirates and has now been promoted into the senior squad.
Bashir is one of four spinners selected for the tour, along with Somerset teammate Jack Leach and left-armer and England vice-captain Ollie Pope returns to the squad after injuries. Fast bowler Atkinson and left-arm spinner Tom Hartley have represented England in white-ball cricket, but are yet to play at Test level.
Hartley has effectively been selected ahead of the far more experienced left-arm spinner Liam Dawson despite the 33-year-old’s successful season with Hampshire.
England cricket director Rob Key, in charge of a selection panel that last year gave a debut to 18-year-old legspinner Rehan Ahmed, defended Bashir’s inclusion: “Life is always about how good someone’s good is, not how bad their bad is.
“He is very raw – he’s going for experience as much as anyone else, albeit we won’t be afraid to play him if required. This is the start of his journey, where we will hopefully see a world-class spinner in the future.”
The former England batsman added, “It can be different if you’re bowling at Virat Kohli out in India in front of 50,000 people, but we feel like his character is very solid “
It’s very hard, especially for spinners in English cricket to judge them on their numbers as such. You’re not going to expect your spinner to average 24 with the ball in county cricket, you’re trying to see something else and back their character.”
Ben Stokes will captain the side after undergoing knee surgery following England’s dismal 50-over World Cup campaign in India, where the reigning champions failed to make it past the league stage.
Key said Stokes would play as a specialist batsman in the first Test at Hyderabad starting on January 25.
“The surgery has been a success and we expect him to be fit but we are not expecting him to be able to bowl at that point,” said Key. “We won’t try to rush through it. It does make it trickier but as long as you know that, you can come up with a plan.”
Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes is also selected after being left out of England’s Ashes squad, but there is no place for Chris Woakes. England’s leading Test wicket-taker James Anderson, 41, heads up the pace attack alongside Mark Wood and Ollie Robinson.
Squad: Ben Stokes (capt), Rehan Ahmed, James Anderson, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow (wkt), Shoaib Bashir, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ben Foakes (wkt), Tom Hartley, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root and Mark Wood