Head coach Brendon McCullum has hinted England could go “quids in” and field an entire attack of spinners in the second Test against India.
After claiming an unforgettable victory in the curtain-raiser at Hyderabad, where sole seamer Mark Wood bowled 25 overs without opening his account on a slow turner, nothing is being ruled out.
Going into a five-day game with just one pace option looked a remarkably bold move a week ago but, with 18 of India’s 20 wickets falling to spin and the other two to run-outs, the Kiwi is mischievously flirting with an even more maverick selection.
After watching Lancashire’s Tom Hartley take nine on debut, including a decisive seven for 62 on the final day, he is entertaining the idea of throwing another newcomer into the mix if India serve up a spinner’s paradise in Visakhapatnam on Friday.
Twenty-year-old Shoaib Bashir only touched down in the country at the weekend, with his arrival delayed by visa issues related to his Pakistani heritage, but is already under consideration to make an unprecedented five-pronged spin unit alongside Hartley, Jack Leach, Rehan Ahmed and Joe Root.
“He comes into the calculations,” McCullum told New Zealand’s SENZ Radio. “If the wickets continue to spin as much as we saw in the first Test, as the series goes on we won’t be afraid to play all spinners, or a balance of what we’ve got.
“We’ll have a look at conditions and make a call. You’re not going to get every call right, especially over here – it’s hard to read some of the wickets. But we’ll make a decision and go quids in on trying to commit to that. Then we’ll see where we land.”
Playing at least one fast bowler is still the likelier outcome, with the ability to change the pace of the game still a valuable string to captain Ben Stokes’ bow and the country’s record wicket-taker James Anderson eager to get into the series.
But where Somerset off-spinner Bashir is concerned, it is clear he is not merely along for the ride.
“Bash was obviously with us during our camp in Abu Dhabi and he really impressed with his skillset,” McCullum said.
“He’s a great kid, he’s got an infectious personality and it was good to have him around us. He’s fitted in seamlessly within the group and he’s a guy who’s got an immense amount of enthusiasm, albeit at a young age and pretty limited in his first-class experience.
“Like Tom Hartley, he was a guy who we looked at and thought, ‘He’s got some skills which could assist us in these conditions’.
“When you see guys you think are good enough, and who you think are going to suit the conditions, it’s sort of horses for courses. Sometimes, you’ve got to be a little bit brave with selections.”