Rookie spinner Shoaib Bashir handed shock call-up for England tour of India

Shoaib Bashir – a rookie spinner with “world class” potential – has been handed a shock call-up for England’s new year Test tour of India, just six months after making his first-class debut for Somerset.

The 20-year-old off-spinner only made his LV= Insurance County Championship bow in June but has been fast-tracked to the very highest level after just six senior red-ball appearances.

Bashir’s track record is wafer thin – with 10 wickets to his name at an average of 67 – but he impressed on a recent England Lions training camp in the United Arab Emirates and will travel as one of three uncapped players in a 16-strong squad.

The others, Lancashire’s left-arm spinner Tom Hartley and Surrey quick Gus Atkinson, have represented their country in white-ball cricket and were fancied to make the five-match trip.

Director of men’s cricket Rob Key heads the selection panel that made a similar call 12 months ago when drafting 18-year-old leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed for the tour of Pakistan.

Ahmed, who also travels as one of four frontline slow bowlers, went on to take a five-wicket haul on debut in Karachi and Key insists investing in promising individuals is the correct course – particularly in a discipline that is notoriously under-served by the domestic game.

“Life is always about how good someone’s good is, not how bad their bad is,” he said.

“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.

“He’s got one of the higher release points in the game, he just looks like everything that you see in a classical off-spinner: a bit of real craft, a bit of real guile and a decent character as well.

“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 and he looks like his ceiling is very high.

  • Matches: 6
  • Wickets: 10
  • Best bowling: 3-67
  • Bowling average: 67.00
  • Highest score: 44 not out
  • Batting average: 14.20

“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. You want to see how the ball comes out of their hand and make those judgements. You’re going more to the art of selection, rather than the science of selection.”

England may need to continue thinking creatively when it comes to balancing their XI in India, with Key admitting there is next to no chance of captain Ben Stokes being able to bowl so soon after surgery on a longstanding left-knee issue.

Stokes is currently recovering and, while hopes are high he will be ready for the first Test on January 25 in Hyderabad, it will be as a specialist batter.

“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 never had him down to be bowling in India. 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.”

Senior spinner Jack Leach is fit again after a stress fracture of the back saw him miss last summer’s Ashes series, but Chris Woakes drops out following his player-of-the-series efforts against Australia and may have played his last overseas Test.

Test captain Ben Stokes may not be fit to bowl in the series.
Test captain Ben Stokes may not be fit to bowl in the series (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Hartley, a tall left-armer who England feel can cause problems by spearing the ball quickly into the pitch, has effectively been selected over the more experienced Liam Dawson.

The Hampshire veteran was touted for a possible return after an excellent domestic season but has been left to pursue franchise opportunities. Will Jacks, the big-hitting Surrey all-rounder currently on England white-ball duty in the Caribbean, has also been left out and will take up T20 deals over the winter.

Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes travels despite losing the gloves to Jonny Bairstow against Australia and could be a strong candidate to break back into the first choice XI given the importance of the role in the sub-continent.

With Stuart Broad retired, there are four fast bowlers chosen: James Anderson, Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood and Atkinson.

England squad for Test tour of India: B Stokes (c), R Ahmed, J Anderson, G Atkinson, J Bairstow (wkt), S Bashir, H Brook, Z Crawley, B Duckett, B Foakes (wkt), T Hartley, J Leach, O Pope, O Robinson, J Root, M Wood.