Brendon McCullum has pleaded with counties to provide opportunities this summer for young spinners making a name for themselves in India and says they would be “mad” not to pick them.
Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir were plucked by England from virtual county obscurity to face world-class spinners here and have been compared to India’s great slow bowlers for taking 32 wickets between them in the first four Tests. .
Now the England manager wants Lancashire and Somerset (and Leicestershire in the case of Rehan Ahmed) to give them the opportunity to build on their success here by building on their experience in the county championship openers in April and May.
“It would be frustrating if they weren’t given opportunities at county level,” McCullum said after England’s fourth Test defeat, which gave India a decisive 3-1 lead.
“There is a very real possibility that that may be the case but, without wanting to impose on the counties because they have their own agendas, I think I would be a bit angry if I didn’t give them more opportunities in county cricket.”
Brendon McCullum (left) wants his young spinners, like Shoaib Bashir (right), to get plenty of game time in their counties over the summer.
The situation is complicated by the fact that early season conditions generally require only one spinner per team at best at county level, a major factor in the lack of depth in England’s spin bowling.
And Bashir will take on fellow Englishman Jack Leach, provided he recovers from knee surgery in time for the start of the season, for a place at Taunton, while Lancashire have just signed Australian Nathan Lyon.
McCullum believes Bashir and Hartley’s development in particular will be hampered if they return home at the end of this series and are thrown into the early season red ball desert. “It will be more difficult if they don’t play,” said the England coach. ‘Everyone improves with more time spent with the tools.
‘Any opportunity we can give them, whether it’s with us or with the counties, we’ll take it because there are two boys there who are more than good enough for international cricket. They are also tough characters.
‘What you cannot tell from the outside of a man’s body is the size of his heart and we have seen that they both have large hearts. “There is nothing more difficult than it is now and they have both stood up and acted.”
McCullum revealed that Ollie Robinson suffered another back problem while making his first Test half-century in Ranchi, causing his pace to dip in a difficult return to the team seven months after limping away from the third Ashes Test at Headingley with a spasm in the back.
McCullum, seen here with Rehan Ahmed, hopes his spinners can build on their success.
“Everything he did before the test suggested that we would not just see Ollie Robinson but a better version of him,” McCullum said. “For one reason or another, it didn’t work out for him and he’s as disappointed as everyone else.
‘In fact, he hurt his back while batting, which is why in those initial two periods he lost rhythm. It was definitely a tough game for him and we just have to make sure we get through it. “We know how skilled he is and we have to find a way to get the best out of him.”
McCullum confirmed that Jonny Bairstow, who has had a difficult series, will keep his place and make his 100th Test appearance in the final game which begins a week on Thursday in the Himalayan foothills in Dharamshala.
“Yes, Jonny will play and it’s a big milestone for him,” McCullum said. “Everyone knows Jonny’s story and he is quite an emotional character at times. “Things like this really mean a lot to him and we look forward to sharing them with him.”
The England manager was firm in his feeling that he will play no part in Bairstow’s selection and retains the faith of the England management ahead of a final Test when, with Harry Brook’s return this summer, he will desperately need a great result.
“He’s done some special things for us and even in this last Test I thought he played a couple of reasonably important hands,” McCullum said when asked if he still backed Bairstow. “In the end it wasn’t enough, but he walked taller, he looked stronger, he looked like he had that presence and that real Jonny Bairstow swagger.”
Ollie Robinson suffered another back problem while returning to the team
The England coach believes his team is improving despite the first series defeat with him and Ben Stokes and predicted an exciting future as he commits to the role he took on in 2022 when Bazball was born.
“To be honest, I’m looking forward to it,” McCullum added. ‘The work the captain has done is extraordinary. The way he handles people is as good as I’ve seen anywhere and I’ve been in the game for a while.
“I’ve never seen anyone with the skills he has. If you add the skill level we have and the progression of the players, the opportunities over the next 18 months are pretty exciting.
“As much as it’s hard to say when you’re 3-1 down, I think this team is better than it was 18 months ago and we’re primed for something that could be pretty special.” “In the end we will know, but it is not a bad time to be manager of the England team.”