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England's fast-bowling attack must complement Leach for succeeding in India, says Gillespie
Last Updated : 21 Jan 2024 01:43:28 PM IST
Left-arm spinner Jack Leach
Left-arm spinner Jack Leach


Former Australia fast-bowler Jason Gillespie believes England's fast-bowling attack needs to complement left-arm spinner Jack Leach for succeeding in the five-match Test series against India, starting on January 25 in Hyderabad.

Leach has played 35 Tests for England since his debut in 2018 and picked 124 wickets at an average of 34.2. He missed last year’s Ashes at home due to a stress fracture in the back, but is now all set to lead England’s charge with the spin in the upcoming five Tests against India.

Alongside Leach in India will be leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed, who made his Test debut in Karachi against Pakistan and picked a five-wicket haul. There is also the uncapped spin-bowling duo of left-arm spinner Tom Hartley and off-spinner Shoaib Bashir.

"Leach is a fine spinner, but he’s a role player for England, much in the mould of Ashley Giles in the 2005 Ashes. Giles was unheralded, averaging two wickets a Test in that memorable series, but his complementing of the four quicks shouldn’t be underestimated.’

"Leach does a similar job for England now, particularly in the UK — although he’s going to have to be quite a bit more prominent in India, with Rehan Ahmed, a leg-spinner with a lot of potential but just one cap, and two new picks in Tom Hartley, of Lancashire, and Somerset’s Shoaib Bashir behind him.”

"There is a lot of expectation on him heading into the first Test on Thursday, that’s for sure. It’s not as if Leach has played 70 matches, either. He’s played only half that, but because they have selected three frightfully inexperienced players, he is the main man.”

"Being lead spinner changes the onus on you as a bowler. And by the way, Indians are pretty decent players of spin. So what England must do is make sure their pace attack complements Leach’s slow left-armers," wrote Gillespie in his column for Daily Mail on Sunday.

India have emerged victorious in 16 consecutive Test series at home ever since they lost 2-1 to England in 2012. But England are yet to lose a Test series under captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum. Gillespie thinks the visitors’ are on the right path, but cautioned them about having days when their attacking approach might not pay off.

"As an Australian, seeing England come out and be really positive and aggressive with smiles on their faces shows they’re clearly enjoying the philosophy and the freedom Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes have entrusted them with.

"Their cricket is on the right track, but they’re going to have some bad days when things don’t come off. You have to accept that if you play a high-risk game there are massive rewards, but also that there will be times where it doesn’t quite work.

"But what’s clear is that the players know that the coach and the captain have got complete trust and faith in the philosophy and their abilities. When a player knows they are being backed, it is the most powerful tool in your coaching kitbag.

Gillespie also urged England to take the positive route while facing spinners in India and told them about the ideal lengths to bowl on the pitches in the country. “Positive play is rewarded in India: you hit the ball through the field, it’s four; the pitches generally are very batting-friendly until they start to deteriorate.”

"If the pitches do take spin early, it can be hard work but the positive intent, which England have in spades, means they will look to strike hard and take down the Indian bowlers. That might be easier said than done against the class of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.

"But don’t forget that England have plenty of class cricketers, too, not just one or two individuals on whom they rely. Fast bowlers can have success in India, but probably need to drag their length back a foot or so from what they would be bowling in England because of a reduction in bounce.

"Reverse swing and keeping the stumps in play is going to be absolutely key. You must set your fields for that. A lot of teams fall into the trap of worrying about bowling straight — because the Indians are such strong, wristy players who hit through the leg side with ease.

"But you need to be strategic, setting your field appropriately with attacking and defending fielders and rely on the old ‘you miss, I hit’ theory, because it rings true on the subcontinent and it suits England to hunt wickets.

New Delhi
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