Shoaib Bashir: The uncapped England spinner with ‘world class potential’ set for India test

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Rob Key believes uncapped spinner Shoaib Bashir has ‘world-class potential’ after deciding to call up the youngster for England’s upcoming five-Test tour of India.

England have bucked the trend. Instead of a focus on stats, and Bashir has played just 10 first-class matches, and taken 10 wickets at an unenviable average of 67, the focus has shifted towards potential. Rehan Ahmed was relatively unknown when he became the youngest player to make a Test appearance for England’s men, and he went on to take a memorable five-fer on debut in Karachi against Pakistan.

The plan is clear, the focus is on how high a player’s ceiling is, rather than who might be best at the current time, and a tour of India is a tough proposition at the best of times, even for those who have played dozens of Test matches.

“I saw him last summer,” manager of England men’s cricket Key said.

“We have this depth app and every now and again you catch a glimpse of a couple of balls, and you see that there’s something different there, or that looks special. We saw him in county cricket, the way he bowled the ball, and then you see the potential, then you try to find out about his character.

“Someone like Bashir - his ceiling is really high. Life is always about good someone’s good is, not how bad their bad is.

“He’s 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.”

Shoaib Bashir has only played six first-class matches for Somerset (Getty Images)
Shoaib Bashir has only played six first-class matches for Somerset (Getty Images)

The 20-year-old off-spinner only made his County Championship debut in June, but after just six-red ball appearances, he has been selected at the highest level, having impressed on a recent England Lions training camp in the United Arab Emirates. Bashir has just 18 professional appearances, across all formats, and has taken 17 wickets total.

Bashir will be joined alongside Tom Hartley, who was also called up for the first time, Jack Leach and Rehan Ahmed, while Joe Root provides another off-spin option. Bashir is a tall spinner, like Hartley, but it is a big ask for two players who are new to the international scene, and they were chosen instead of the experienced Liam Dawson and Surrey all-rounder Will Jacks.

But after Key shouldered the criticism for England’s hopeless World Cup performance, saying he had prioritised the fortunes of the Test team, that could at least partly explain the absence of Jacks, who took six wickets in the subcontinent last winter.

“Will Jacks – you’re making a decision, from the summer, is it better for them to be going around carrying drinks throughout India or can they go and play franchise cricket when we’ve got a World T20 coming up, so that was the decision,” Key said.

“Liam Dawson the same. He didn’t make himself unavailable for this trip at all. Again, Liam Dawson is probably not someone who wants to go around India as the 15th or 16th man – if he’s going to play and if he’s going to feature then he’s going to want to do that, but if he’s not I don’t think it’s high on his agenda to be going as essentially a replacement bowler, so that’s where we end up.”

During their dismal World Cup, England turned to their all-rounders to bolster their batting, including Liam Livingstone, David Willey, Chris Woakes, and Sam Curran in the squad, while for the upcoming Test tour they have spurned all of that in favour of specialists.

Ben Stokes will not be able to bowl, leaving England without an all-rounder, unless Root can be considered as such, and he might yet have a role to play with the ball. While Stokes is expected to be fully fit for the series, England will be carried through with just four seam options, including the uncapped Gus Atkinson, alongside Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson and 41-year-old James Anderson.

Yet again under Stokes and McCullum, England face a decision over who to make wicketkeeper. Ben Foakes, who was ousted in favour of Jonny Bairstow ahead of the Ashes summer, is back in contention. The specialist Surrey keeper is a well-known player of spin and averages 41.90 with the bat in Test matches in Asia, including one century and two fifties.

England squad to face India: Ben Stokes (capt), Rehan Ahmed, James Anderson, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow, Shoaib Bashir, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ben Foakes, Tom Hartley, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Mark Wood