Ben Stokes set to unleash promising spin duo on India as England announce squad for five Tests
Gus Atkinson, Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir have earned maiden call-ups as England announced a 16-player squad for the five India Tests.
Captain Ben Stokes and England have added three mystery picks in their 16-member squad that will play India in five Tests starting next month. The ECB have handed maiden call-ups to fast bowler Gus Atkinson along with spinners Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir in England's pursuit of winning their first Test series in India since 2012. In fact, 11 years ago, England became the last team to hand India a Test series defeat on their own soil – only Virat Kohli remains the sole survivor from that tour – and to repeat the heroics of Alastair Cook and his men, a stoked Stokes is leaving no stone unturned.
Atkinson, 25, is being talked about as one of the next big things in England cricket, and recently picked 20 wickets at an average of 20.20 in Surrey's successful County title defence. He was also part of England's World Cup squad but did not get a game. He has played nine ODIs and two T20Is for England, picking up 16 wickets thus far and is expected to make his Test debut when the series begins January in Hyderabad. The surfaces at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, Vizag and Dharamsala have traditionally assisted pace, which means it could be only a matter of time before Atkinson is seen in England whites.
Hartley, 24, and Bashir, 19, in comparison are comparatively low profile. Bashir, who bowls right-arm off-break, grabbed 10 wickets from six games from Somerset, while Hartley has a bit more experience of taking 40 wickets at an average of 36.57 for Lancashire. Standing at 6 feet four inches tall, Hartley will be expected to bowl quick and hurry the Indian batters wherever there's even the slightest assist for spinners.
History has proven that Indian batters are seldom comfortable against bowlers – especially spinners – they haven't played before, which is why Hartley and Bashir's selections are not surprising. Both trained with the England Lions squad in the United Arab Emirates in November, during which Bashir took 6/42 in a three-day fixture against Afghanistan A. A third spinner is in the mix as well, with Rehan Ahmed earning a recall. The 19-year-old leg-spinner makes a comeback to the squad following his impressive five-wicket haul against Pakistan in December 2022, a performance that marked him as England's youngest-ever Test debutant.
In other key takeaways, wicketkeeper batter Ben Woakes makes a comeback after getting dropped for the Ashes. Also returning are left-arm spinner Jack Leach - who troubled India during England's last tour in 2021 - and Ollie Pope after recovering from their respective back and shoulder injuries. The fast bowling unit comprises James Anderson, Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood. Chris Woakes, Dan Lawrence, Liam Dawson and Will Jacks have been snubbed. England will begin preparations for the tour with a short camp in the UAE about 15 days before the first Test.
England Test squad: Rehan Ahmed, James Anderson, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow, Shoaib Bashir, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ben Foakes, Tom Hartley, Jack Leach, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Ben Stokes (captain), Mark Wood
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