Shoaib Bashir was handed his maiden England call-up ahead of the five-Test tour of India, despite having just six first-class matches under his belt, and was selected for the second Test of the series at Visakhapatnam.
England already bucked the trend to select those performing the best in county cricket in 2022, when teenager Rehan Ahmed was chosen for the three-Test tour of Pakistan. Brendon McCullum’s side reaped the rewards when he went on to claim a five-fer on debut in the final match of the series in Karachi.
India is an even tougher ask for a young spinner, especially when they are expected to bowl a high proportion of the overs on turn-friendly red soil tracks.
In 2012-13 England spun their way to victory with a two-pronged attack of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar who were equal to the Indian spin attack. Jack Leach will be crucial as England’s frontline option, even though he had not bowled prior to the tour of India since June, but he will need support.
Rehan Ahmed is the second-most experienced out-and-out spinner, although Joe Root will likely bowl a host of overs, and then it comes down to the uncapped duo of Tom Hartley and Bashir.
Bashir only made his County Championship debut in June, and across all formats has just 18 professional appearances, during which he has taken 17 wickets in total. But the 20-year-old off spinner is ranked highly by those who have worked with him, and England managing director of men’s cricket Rob Key said in December he had ‘world class’ potential.
“He’s got an incredibly high ceiling, obviously he’s in the infancy of his career, he spins it, he’s got massive hands – which everyone keeps talking about,” Somerset head coach Jason Kerr told The Independent.
“He’s really tall so he’s going to get bounce as well and he’s at the beginning of his journey which is really exciting because he has those attributes.
“I think as a character he’s outstanding as well and he’s a really likeable lad and works hard, so there’s a lot to like at this stage.
“Fundamentally, he’s going to be a really good bowler.”
Should he be called upon, and there is a good chance that he might be, especially after McCullum’s statement before the series that England were prepared to be “really brave” with their team selections, and Tom Hartley spun England to victory on his Test debut, taking seven wickets during the thrilling first Test at Hyderabad.
But Bashir’s rise to the top, has not always been so straightforward. He started his career in the Surrey academy but was let go as a teenager and dropped down into the National Counties before he was noticed by Somerset while playing for Berkshire.
But Kerr believes that early setback has made him stronger as a player. “I like the fact that he’s gone out the game and that journey has been interrupted because it helps influence their character,” he said.
The Somerset head coach added: “Bash would have had aspirations I’m sure to play for Surrey, he was in their pathway, he would have been excited about the opportunities and dreamt of a future there and suddenly that’s taken away from him.
“How you deal with that, how you develop coping strategies emotionally, mentally, is huge. Because sport is full of setbacks, especially cricket, it’s a sport that’s really hard to perform all the time in, so that bit I’m excited by.
“Because at some point someone said to Bash ‘you’re not good enough’ and then he’s gone away, continued to work, and continued to work with coaches in Berkshire and continued and created opportunities for himself.”
Bashir has been handed an opportunity in the second Test match after Jack Leach was ruled out through injury and has been backed by Stokes and McCullum.