England great Alastair Cook is confident Shoaib Bashir has the ‘natural attributes’ to succeed in Test cricket and believes Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum have proven they can be trusted with such bold selection calls.
Bashir is in line to make his Test debut as England prepare to resume battle with India in the second match of this winter’s intriguing series in Visakhapatnam, starting on Friday.
The tourists have made two changes to the XI that pulled off a staggering 28-run victory in Hyderabad, with Bashir coming in for the injured Jack Leach and James Anderson replacing Mark Wood.
Hosts India, meanwhile, will be without all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja and batter KL Rahul, who have been ruled out in Vizag through injury, while former captain Virat Kohli remains unavailable for personal reasons.
Bashir, a 20-year-old off-spinner from Somerset, has endured a rollercoaster few days after being forced to return home due to visa complications, meaning he could play no part in the opening contest.
But the youngster – who impressed for the England Lions in the UAE – was granted an Indian visa and given the green light to join up with the rest of his team-mates at the weekend.
In his pre-match press conference ahead of the second Test, Stokes revealed how a clip of Bashir’s bowling against former England captain Cook convinced him he could excel in India’s spin-friendly conditions.
‘To be perfectly honest, Abu Dhabi was the first real live look I got at Bash,’ Stokes told ESPNcricinfo.
‘The first time I saw him was on Twitter. I think the County Championship account put a little clip together of him bowling against Sir Alastair.
‘I’m in a WhatsApp group with Keysy [Rob Key] and Baz [Brendon McCullum]. I actually did forward the clip on and said, “Have a look at this, this could be something we could work with on our India tour” and it just progressed from there.
‘He got selected on the Lions tour and obviously, the coaches on that tour fed everything back to us.’
Speaking to BBC Sport, Cook tipped Bashir for big things and explained just how impressed he was with the off-spinner when his Essex side welcomed Somerset to Chelmsford last summer.
‘I think he’s got the main attribute that he spins the ball very hard which I think Swanny [Graeme Swann] is a big advocate of to start off early in your career.
‘If you can spin the ball with the control and the discipline, you can teach all that. But actually the ability to spin the ball as well.
‘He’s tall as well so he’s got some natural attributes that will help. What I was impressed with when I faced him was that he didn’t bowl that many bad balls.’
Cook added: ‘He had control, he liked the contest so it will be interesting to see how he goes. There were some very good reports from training camps in the UAE, there’s some videos of him bowling some absolutely cracking balls.
‘It’s a big ask to come in and play but you trust Ben and Brendon’s judgement. They’ve got a lot of decisions right with picking players and if they didn’t think he was ready for it they wouldn’t be selecting him.
‘They must be thinking with the balance of the side they’re going with that they can cover him and hide him enough when they need to, but when they want to throw him ball that they’re confident he will be good enough to play.’
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