Tom Hartley: The latest rookie to give India a headache | Cricket - Hindustan Times
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Tom Hartley: The latest rookie to give India a headache

By, Hyderabad
Jan 29, 2024 10:04 PM IST

Son of Bill Hartley, who won 4 x 400m European Championship gold in 1974, the tall 24-year-old player from Lancashire hasn't found immediate success in cricket

There have been many rookie cricketers who have come to the Indian shores and become overnight hits. Tom Hartley is the latest. He is not even a regular in his County team back home, and has come and played the starring role for England in his debut Test.

England's Tom Hartley, who took 7 wickets in the second innings, celebrates after winning the first Test cricket match vs India.(PTI) PREMIUM
England's Tom Hartley, who took 7 wickets in the second innings, celebrates after winning the first Test cricket match vs India.(PTI)

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What makes Hartley’s story more compelling is because it's a classic underdog story. Written off after being attacked by the batters in the first innings, he fought back to win the contest for his side with an outstanding effort of seven wickets for 62 runs to silence the home fans.

Son of Bill Hartley, who won 4 x 400m European Championship gold in 1974, the tall 24-year-old player from Lancashire hasn't found immediate success in cricket.

In 20 first-class games, he had just 40 wickets. He was picked for the series as Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum went scouting for a particular type of spinner to suit the Indian conditions. He was seen as a white-ball specialist. Due to his height, accuracy and hit the surface style he fit their plans. Hartley found himself on the flight to India with the England squad.

"It's unbelievable, it's not going to sink in for a while, I'm just over the moon to be honest," Hartley said at the post match presentation ceremony.

Going by the proceedings of the first day, Stokes’ plan seemed to have backfired. Hartley's first 6 overs went for 51 runs. Given the new ball, opener Yashasvi Jaiswal hit his first ball for six and made it two in his first over with another on the fifth ball. Only captain Stokes still believed in him. He gave him an extended spell. The two wickets he picked in the first innings were due to the mistakes of the batter. Shubman Gill hit a loose shot to the midwicket fielder and KL Rahul holed out to deep midwicket.

"It was really tough out there, it didn't spin quite as much as we thought. Testament to the coaches, Stoksey, Baz, they really got around me and I lost no confidence really and I was able to come out and do my best over here,” Hartley said sharing his thoughts on the mauling in the first innings.

It was credit to his captain who kept the faith and kept bowling him without looking at the scoreboard. Hartley was England’s most expensive bowler going over five runs an over in a first innings spell of 25-0-131-2. “The gameplan was obviously going to be a long tour, a long game. I was willing to give him a long spell regardless of what had happened because I knew I had to turn back to him at some point in this Test match. Allowing him to have a longer spell at the start was almost just justification to say 'what I was telling you before the game started is going to happen'," Stokes said.

From a non-entity, Hartley has become a threat to the Indian batters. He took them down in the second innings by bowling an unwavering stump-to-stump line, bringing his white-ball accuracy into play. On pitches offering turn and natural variations, accuracy is enough to get the rewards. Hartley's confidence will be high going into the second Test. The home team’s think-tank now has the headache of finding a way to counter him at Vizag.

Against O’Keefe, India had done it successfully in 2017, restricting him to just three wickets each in the second and third Tests at Bangalore and Ranchi and just one in the series decider at Dharamshala. That time, India could fall back upon the the experience of Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara. This time it is going to be tough.

The Indian bowlers also have a challenge at hand as Hartley lends the batting depth to his team too. A handy left-hand batter, he made a difference in both innings at Hyderabad with smart batting, making 23 and 34. He said the runs gave him the confidence.

"I was really nervous to start but getting a few runs always helps (with bowling). It put my nervousness to ease a little bit and I got to find out a few things about the pitch which helped with my bowling as well. I realised I didn't have to bowl as fast as I thought. I could take my time in my run-up, especially watching Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin, and the boys bowl out there.”

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