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Jeetan Patel: 'I won't leave England's young spinners in the lurch'

Spin coach praises Bashir for overcoming illness, as he and Hartley keep fighting with the ball

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Shoaib Bashir struck first ball after tea, India vs England, 5th Test, Dharamsala, 2nd day, March 8, 2024

Shoaib Bashir struck first ball after tea, en route to four first-innings wickets  •  BCCI

Jeetan Patel, England's spin coach, praised Shoaib Bashir for his skill and tenacity after he overcame a pre-match bout of sickness to claim four first-innings wickets during another marathon spell in the fifth Test in Dharamsala. Patel also vowed to keep supporting Bashir's career progression once this England tour is over, in the wake of his meteoric rise from obscurity on the county circuit.
Bashir had been one of two England players, along with the unselected Ollie Robinson, who had stayed back at the team hotel on the eve of the Test instead of attending their final training session, and he was still under the weather when named in the starting XI on Thursday morning.
Despite this, and after working his way through 70 overs at Ranchi last week which left him nursing a cut on his spinning finger, Bashir has now bowled another 44 in India's first innings at Dharamsala. He could even have wrapped up his second five-wicket haul of the series in the day's closing moments, had Ben Stokes clung onto a diving chance at slip off Kuldeep Yadav.
Instead, Bashir will resume on day three with India eight wickets down, and with an imposing lead of 255 already in the bank, thanks in particular to centuries from Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill. Despite the tough match situation, Patel was full of praise for Bashir in particular, but England's attack as a whole, for sticking to their task, and prising out seven wickets across the day's final two sessions.
"Look, it's a hell of an effort," Patel said of Bashir's role. "He was ill the day before the game. He wasn't well yesterday. And he's still a little bit iffy today, but to then go bang out 45 [44] overs and nearly knock off a five-for … you could say he deserves it, but no one deserves anything in this game.
"It's one of those things, he's put in a hell of a shift for us. So has Tom Hartley. So has Mark Wood, Jimmy Anderson, all the bowlers really, all the fielders. To have them eight-down is a great sign going forward.
"We're going to have tough days in Test cricket. And today was one of them. If you put enough hard yards in, eventually the circle turns and it comes back on you. There's a lot of tired guys in there and rightly so. They put in a big shift."
England's optimistic approach to adversity has been a feature of the Ben Stokes-Brendon McCullum era, and that upbeat trait was visible even as India's lead stretched into the afternoon, not least during a burst of three wickets for one run in the space of nine balls, as Bashir and Hartley combined to dislodge India's lower-middle order.
"They are young guys trying to forge their career in international cricket," Patel said. "It's the one thing that we keep trying to believe, that this is the most exciting time of your career, and you should want to celebrate every wicket. And you should want to have as much fun as you can with your team-mates.
"That's the beauty of having unscarred players in the team," he added. "That's a tough day for Bash or anyone playing Test cricket. But he hasn't had the scars and that's exciting to have, because he bowls the next ball with energy whether it's gone for four, six, dot, wicket, it doesn't matter. That's the most pleasing thing."
"We spoke about it this morning … 'why not just show off, what does it matter?' It's the last Test, you're not going to play for another six weeks, at least, it's a great chance to show the world the skills you have got. That's the most pleasing thing for me, to see him and Harts show off the way they did and ask some good questions of the best batters in the world."
Whether Bashir or Hartley can get much game-time in the coming weeks is a moot point, and a topic that will doubtless prove to be a talking point of the early weeks of the county season. Bashir's previous first-class experience had been limited to a handful of outings for Somerset, where he is No.2 to England's premier spinner, Jack Leach: a situation that could lead to him seeking a loan deal for more game-time. Meanwhile Hartley's opportunities for Lancashire are bound to be cramped by the signing of Australia's star offspinner, Nathan Lyon.
Whatever that immediate future holds, however, Patel promised he would continue to serve as a mentor to his young spinners, even after the current tour is over.
"My work continues when they are not with England," he told the BBC. "I am not the sort of bloke who is going to leave them in the lurch. They have jobs to do for their counties, and they will look like different jobs, but it's learning for them to grow again and then their skills in two years' time are better than they are now.
"The county season starts in April and teams might not even play spinners," he added. "But it would be nice to see these guys get more opportunities to bowl, get more overs in them, because they obviously have something to offer. Bowling against some of the best players in their own country, taking wickets and building pressure. They have something to offer England, but we want to keep pushing that and advancing their learning. It might mean I have to do a bit more work."
"I think he's fantastic," Patel continued, when asked about the development of Bashir in particular. "The spin he can access, over spin, side spin ... don't get me wrong, he's 20 and he's got some overs to bowl yet, he's going to have to keep learning and that curve is going to have to keep going up. But what he's done in his three Tests here has certainly shown that.
"The willingness to learn, the willingness to do the hard graft, the partnership bowling for him and Tom, even the stuff with his batting, there's a real sense of a young kid - and I say young kid because that's how you talk to him, like he's in the backyard with his mates. That's what we want, that's how we'll get the best out of them. They're both very tired but they were both giving high fives and giving banter."
On England's dicey match situation, Patel stopped short of predicting a fightback of the magnitude that occurred in the first Test in Hyderabad - when Ollie Pope lived up to Patel's belief in the team's abilities to produce one of the best innings ever played by an overseas batter in India. Nevertheless, he insisted that the contest was not entirely out of his team's reach, despite the size of the overnight deficit.
"Obviously the first thing is to get these two wickets in the morning, and then set up some partnerships," he said. "That's what India showed us, once you do get in on this wicket, you can build big partnerships. And the onus goes on our top six to forge that, and it's exciting, isn't it? It's an opportunity for someone, or a few guys, to get in and rack up some big runs at the back end of this game."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket