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India v England 2024

Brendon McCullum: Counties would be ‘slightly mad’ not to give young spinners opportunities

Brendon McCullum asks counties to give Bashir and Hartley more opportunities
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Brendon McCullum has said it will be “frustrating” if Shoaib Bashir and Tom Hartley aren’t given more opportunities by their counties in the upcoming season after their success in India.

Hartley and Bashir earned call-ups to England’s Test squad for the series in India despite limited experience in first-class cricket. Bashir had played just six first-class fixtures before receiving his first international cap in Visakhapatnam, while Hartley had 40 wickets from 20 first-class appearances. Hartley is currently the leading wicket-taker in the series after four Test matches, with Bashir taking eight wickets in the fourth Test in Ranchi – including his first first-class five-for. With Jack Leach injured after the first Test match and Rehan Ahmed ruled out of the rest of the series, they are now the only frontline spinners in England’s squad.

Speaking ahead of the final Test match of the series, England head coach McCullum has urged Lancashire (Hartley) and Somerset (Bashir) to give both the young spinners more opportunities to build on the success they’ve found in India. “It will be frustrating if they weren’t given opportunities at county level,” said McCullum. “There’s a very real possibility of that being the case but, without wanting to dictate to counties because they have their own agendas, I think you’d be slightly mad if you didn’t give them more opportunities in county cricket.”

The County Championship in England begins in April, and conditions during the early part of the season mean sides usually only field one spinner at most. Both Hartley and Bashir have to compete with senior spinners for places in their respective first-choice XIs. Leach is Somerset’s senior spinner, although his availability for the early season is uncertain after he revealed he would undergo surgery on his injured knee, and Lancashire have signed Nathan Lyon for the 2024 season.

“It will be harder if they don’t play,” said McCullum. “Everyone gets better with more time on the tools. Whatever opportunities we can get for them, whether it’s with us or the counties, we’ll take because there are two guys there more than good enough for international cricket. They’re also tough characters.”

“What you can’t tell from the outside of a man’s body is the size of their heart and we’ve seen both of them have big hearts. It doesn’t get any harder than it is right now and they’ve both stood up and performed.”

Both Bashir and Hartley will almost certainly feature in the final Test match of the series in Dharamshala, which starts on March 7. McCullum also confirmed that Jonny Bairstow would be retained in the side to play his 100th Test match, despite poor returns in the series so far.

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