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From Hartley to Bashir, England’s newbies for India Tests

Last updated on 21 Jan 2024 | 05:17 AM
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From Hartley to Bashir, England’s newbies for India Tests

So, what to expect from the likes of Tom Hartley, Shoaib Bashir and Rehan Ahmed

Tom Hartley

Age: 24

Role: Left-arm orthodox spinner

First-Class record: 40 wickets @ 36.57, 522 runs @ 29 

Not to be confused with the former England women’s cricketer Alex Hartley, Tom Hartley has a pretty interesting background. His dad, Bill Hartley, represented Great Britain at 400m hurdles and 4x400m relay, where he also won a silver medal at the 1974 Commonwealth Games in Christchurch. 

After trying out his hand in football, where in his dad’s admission, ‘he wasn’t what they were looking for,’ Hartley tried his hand at cricket, a sport where he was more natural. The left-arm spinner then rose from Ormskirk CC to Lancashire’s age-group programme to the Manchester Originals in the Hundred.

The consistent display across formats led to Hartley making his Three Lions debut in 2023 against Ireland. At the first-class level, the left-arm spinner has picked up 40 wickets, averaging 36.57, including a five-wicket haul. 

Hartley has all variations up his armoury for a left-arm spinner, with a slow, loopy spinning delivery, a quicker, straighter delivery and his height allows for a more natural back-of-a-length bowling channel, which could trouble the Indian batters.

"I just feel all that confidence has been passed on to me and I can't wait to go out there. My stats might not be the best in championship cricket but I bowl very similar to Axar and Jadeja. They're taking a bit of a punt but I feel like I've proved myself in the training camps that I've been on and I deserve to get a go," Hartley told PA News agency. 

Gus Atkinson

Age: 26

Role: Right-arm quick

First-Class record: 45 wickets @ 26.64; 394 runs @ 28.14

If it was Olly Stone last time around, England have trusted Gus Atkinson to do a similar role this time on their tour of India. Someone of the quicker mould, Atkinson has all the attributes to succeed in the red-ball format of the game. Having earned his professional contract way back in 2017, Atkinson has risen through the ranks at Surrey, earning himself a contract at the County level. 

Atkinson has all the attributes of a pacer, with the ability to churn out 90mph delivery repeatedly, even in the most adverse conditions. His best year was 2022, when he picked up 13 wickets, averaging 28.84 for Surrey, hitting the back-of-a-length area more naturally. 

While the 26-year-old might not be a starter in the first Test of the series, there is all the opportunity in the world for the speedster to make his Test debut in the series, given that England would want to look out for Mark Wood’s workload.

His genuine pace and the ability to bowl pacy bouncers could even cause trouble or two for several Indian batters, including Shreyas Iyer. If you think that was it about Atkinson, that’s where the surprise begins. 

Atkinson’s ability as a batter, too, is noteworthy, having made his initial impression by hitting a hundred against Worcestershire in a second XI match back in 2018. So, there is a very good chance that India would want to look at him more carefully. 

Also Read: Earmarked for a great future, can Gus Atkinson live up to the billing?

Rehan Ahmed

Age: 19

Role: Leg-spinner

First-Class record: 24 wickets @ 39.04; 735 runs @ 31.95

Rehan Ahmed, just like Hartley, has an interesting anecdote. Rehan’s dad, Naeem, grew up in Pakistan for the longest time before moving to the United Kingdom to work as a taxi driver. Naeem, too, was a handy cricketer, having played a lot of club cricket as a fast bowling all-rounder, and encouraged Rehan to take up the sport.

However, the art of leg-spin had to come through hard work for the 19-year-old, who became the youngest-ever Test debutant for England when he got his cap at the Gaddafi Stadium in the Test against Pakistan. From the Rashid Khan school of pyrotechnics, the 19-year-old is quite skiddy through the air with four deliveries in his armoury: leg spinner, slider, googly, and a top spinner. 

On his Test debut, the leg-spinner picked up seven wickets, including a five-wicket haul with some tight bowling, conceding runs at just 3.71 per over. Not just that, like Hartley and Atkinson, Rehan is quite a three-dimensional cricketer: a top-notch bowler, an aggressive batter and quite a stellar athlete on the field.

Like other leg-spinners, Rehan, too, at one point in his career, was earmarked for great success by none other than the legendary Shane Warne. He is set to start alongside Jack Leach, and Indian fans could first-hand witness what the leg-spinner is capable of. 

Shoaib Bashir

Age: 20

Role: Off-spinner

First-Class record: 10 wickets @ 67; 71 runs @ 14.20

Shoaib Bashir’s selection was a real shocker. The off-spinner’s record at the First-Class level is still in its infancy stage, with just ten wickets in six games. And he has barely done anything with the bat to warrant this early selection in the England setup, having been released by Surrey’s second rank early on in his career. 

So, what’s there about Bashir? England’s managing director, Rob Key, reasoned out the off-spinner’s selection, hailing that his height might come into the picture in Indian conditions. 

"Without sounding like an analyst, he's got one of the higher release points in the game,” Key told ESPNCricinfo. 

It wasn’t just that reason why Bashir was in the squad to face India. The off-spinner’s ceiling is quite high (literally and figuratively), given he was part of the England Lions’ camp in the United Arab Emirates against Afghanistan ‘A’. The off-spinner was impressive in that clash, and it is perhaps that which fast-tracked his place in the English setup. 

“Look, I have grown up watching Ashwin, Jadeja and Leachy. Just got to take as much as I can from the series. Take in as much information and knowledge as I can, and hopefully, it will make me a better player,” Bashir told Somerset Cricket. 

While not being a huge turner of the ball, Bashir’s ability to get strong drift on the ball, and his angle, which makes the batters more susceptible to LBW and bowled, makes him threatening. Don’t be surprised if he threatens the outside edge more than the inside edge in India.

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