England in Bangladesh 2016-17 October 31, 2016

Anderson injury offers England room for manoeuvre

Despite being the leading English-qualified spinner in the 2016 season there was no place for Jack Leach in England's touring squad but there remains a chance that could change
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England will resist the immediate temptation to send for reinforcements ahead of the tour of India, but it remains possible a player could be added to the squad in the coming weeks.

Having suffered a chastening final day in Mirpur, where they missed several opportunities in the field and lost all 10 wickets in a session, there might have been a temptation to refresh a squad that is struggling to both play and bowl spin as well as the opposition. Alastair Cook, the captain, admitted on Sunday that England "haven't got world-class spinners".

But while James Whitaker, the national selector, has confirmed England will keep faith with the 16-man squad originally named for the tour, replacement players will be called up in case of injury. That could even include the possibility of replacing James Anderson who was not named in the original tour party for the India series with the understanding that he would join the squad if he was deemed to be fit.

"We've picked our squad and we stand by that," Whitaker told ESPNcricinfo. "If someone is injured or becomes unwell, we can look at making changes but these are the players we believe are best equipped for the job.

"James Anderson continues to make his comeback from injury at Loughborough and we will assess his fitness before deciding what his involvement on the tour will be."

One of the great truisms of cricket is that a player's reputation can often improve most when he is not playing. So, with England's spinners struggling to match the potency of their Bangladesh counterparts, the calls for the inclusion of Somerset's Jack Leach or Middlesex's Ollie Rayner have intensified.

Leach, a left-arm spinner, claimed 65 Championship wickets during the 2016 season at an average of 21.87. No England-qualified player claimed more in Division One. Rayner, the Middlesex off-spinner, claimed 51 Championship wickets at an average of 23.56. By comparison with the spinners in England's squad, Gareth Batty claimed 41 at 31.21, Adil Rashid claimed 32 at 33.84 and Zafar Ansari 22 at 31.40. All five of them played in Division One of the County Championship.

Leach is in some ways an unlikely saviour. While Jos Buttler, his team-mate from Somerset youth teams, was soon fast tracked as a special talent, Leach was obliged to take a job parking trolleys in a Taunton supermarket as he attempted to pursue a career in the game.

He has developed steadily, however, and is now an admirably consistent bowler. And while England are relatively well-served with spinners who turn the ball into right-handed batsmen (Moeen Ali and Graeth Batty have probably been the most reliable of England's spinners on the tour to date), Leach might have offered England another option for a spinner who takes the ball away from them.

While his excellent record in the 2016 Championship season comes with something of a caveat - Somerset played on pitches providing an unusual amount of assistance to spin bowlers - it is likely that England will encounter similar surfaces in India. His experience of operating on such surfaces might therefore have been useful and Somerset, who were criticised for preparing such surfaces, could argue that they were preparing England players for the challenge ahead.

Most of England's spinners have little experience of bowling in helpful conditions. Moeen, for example, developed on an unresponsive New Road surface and, when he did come across a helpful track, often found himself as second spinner behind Batty - until he moved to Surrey - or Saeed Ajmal. For that reason, he is still learning to deal with the expectation and pressure of bowling in circumstances where spinners are required to lead the attack.

But the selectors have concluded that to make changes now would suggest panic and argue that the reasons for selecting the current squad remain as valid now as they did a few weeks ago. Leach, for example, is still seen as an inexperienced player who has yet to have the chance to familiarise himself with the England environment. He will depart for a Lions trip to the UAE shortly, though, and it remains possible that, should an injury befall any of the bowlers, he could be called up.

Jack Leach had an oustanding county season © Getty Images

That includes Anderson. If he is ruled out of the tour in the coming days - and it seems a decision will be made in the next week - it is entirely possible the selectors could replace him with a spinner. The team management could argue that such a move would not be a sign of panic or demonstrate any lack of faith in the current squad, but represent a natural replacement for a bowler who would have been with the squad had he been fully fit.

It would make little sense to replace Anderson with another seamer. England already have several options in that department - Stuart Broad and Jake Ball sat out the second Test in Mirpur, for example - but they have fewer spin options. Leach could, therefore, yet find himself in India within a few weeks.

Meanwhile, England are sticking to their original plan to take a few days off before beginning preparations for the India leg of the tour. They fly to Mumbai on Wednesday and do not have any full training sessions planned until Saturday. Then they fly to Rajkot on Sunday where they will step up their preparations ahead of the first Test starting on Wednesday, November 9. Some players are likely to arrange net sessions in their days off, but there will be no official warm-up match.

"The boys have been training very hard since we've been here," Trevor Bayliss, the coach, said. "It's been a fairly hectic two or three weeks, so I think part of it will be mental and physical rest so that we're fresh going into those matches.

"It's not all about practice, practice, practice, even though that's what people might think we need to do. But when the guys practice we want to practice properly and get our confidence for those matches."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Daniel on November 3, 2016, 0:31 GMT

    It's somewhat counter-intuitive to suggest that the likes of Moeen are finding it difficult to bowl consistently well because the wickets are helpful.

  • Peter on November 2, 2016, 14:58 GMT

    A major misjudgement not to pick Leach in the first place! Indefensible pig-headedness for the sake of face-saving not to do so now!!

  •   jamesandersan on November 2, 2016, 13:59 GMT

    I am praying for Jimmy to come back soon

  • Mark on November 2, 2016, 7:53 GMT

    @JG2704 Yes, the word "not" is missing! Sorry. As you say, Chris Rogers felt that he was not ready.

  • John on November 2, 2016, 7:21 GMT

    Just a couple of points - picking up on what others have said -

    1 - Re age and experience - Well I'd say Leach is of the perfect age to break through and as WLB points out , there seemed to be no prob for the Bangladesh spinner

    2 - We can all say - if Rashid , Moeen , Batty , Ansari played at Taunton they'd all take a load more wickets but the fact is they don't and the series is India and Bangladesh isn't going to be played on surfaces like Headingly,Edgbaston, Trent Bridge , Lords etc so does it not make sense to play the guy who is more used to bowling on spinning tracks?

  • John on November 2, 2016, 7:12 GMT

    @CRICKETINGSTARGAZER ON NOVEMBER 2, 2016, 6:33 GMT - Didn't Rogers say it might be too early for him indicating he might NOT be ready. Also I thought he made his comms about Leach after the squad was announced. I'd also add that others at the club - guys like Tres,Trego,Hildreth who will all have watched his rise through the ranks would be able to give a better assessment.

    @LANDL - It would be harsh to judge Leach - should he get called up for India - having been without the same prep as the others but to me it's a defeatist attitude not calling up the leading English spin WT in the CC - and by some distance. By making no changes to the squad is saying that the Bangladesh result was good. Now this may very well be a turning point for Bangladesh but I'm sure most of us (without meaning to sound arrogant) expected a 2-0 win and in truth we were closer to a 2-0 defeat and it was the pace dept which did more. Also wasn't Batty a most un England like selection?

  • Mark on November 2, 2016, 6:33 GMT

    Just bear in mind that any injury replacement who is sent out will get no match practice at all before (potentially) playing a Test: the arrangement was that the Bangladesh tour would serve as preparation! Chris Rogers (his county captain) says that Jack Leach is ready, which must have been a factor, but at least he has shown that he can take wickets in favourable conditions, something that not all of the England attack can claim. Personally, I would have taken Leach to Bangladesh and Ollie Rayner to India to have a look at both of them, but it is probably too late to do anything about the squad now. Batty, with his poor late-season form, never convinced me, I have though been bitterly disappointed by Adil Rashid, who had an excellent ODI series, but seems to be an English Imran Tahir, falling apart when he has a red ball in his hands.

  • Valavan on November 2, 2016, 6:26 GMT

    @indrackt1987, check stats before posting. Anderson played in all 3 series before this one in india. 2006, 2008 and 2012. its age catching up and workload to be managed. his average is worst only vs australia in australia. cricinfo please publish.

  • John on November 1, 2016, 23:56 GMT

    I think the selectors have misread the needs of a touring side in the subcontinent and have picked a side that would be fine in English conditions. However, It would be grossly unfair on Leach to ship him out now, with no match preparation under his belt, and expect him to try and cope with India's batsmen on their home wickets. England has made its bed and, uncomfortable as it now appears it will be, they have to lie in it.

  • Simon on November 1, 2016, 20:55 GMT

    Once again Whittaker is on the rampage doing his best to destroy English cricket. The same squad that don't have a Test spinner in their ranks and are about to play 5 tests in India! Leach and Raynor appear to be the two best young spinners in the country, and we should be taking a punt, instead of the guarenteed mediocrity we have now. We also absolutely need to get another right handed bat into the squad to counter Ashwin. How bad does Whittajer have tk be to get removed?! The bloke should have been thrown out with Clarke, Downton, Moores and the rest of his ilk.

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