Tom Hartley is one of two uncapped spinners who have been named in England’s Test squad to face India in the new year, with Liam Dawson not among the 16-player group.
Dawson’s absence was somewhat expected given his comments earlier in the winter that he would have to consider his franchise commitments before accepting a place on the tour. Speaking at PCA Awards in October, Dawson said: “At the minute I am going to South Africa, but if things change I will have to make a decision. Financially it is something at my age that I will have to consider, that will be a big decision.”
When the squad was named today, Shoaib Bashir and Hartley were named among four spinners set to make the trip, with Jack Leach and Rehan Ahmed also part of the group.
Elaborating on the decision to select Hartley over Dawson, Rob Key said: “I think Liam Dawson’s an excellent cricketer, and you obviously have his batting. To be honest, I think Liam Dawson has gotten better over the last couple of years. I played on a tour with him when he was 19 and I’ve always liked him. I just feel like the style of bowling that Hartley has actually puts him ahead of him, to be honest.”
Dawson had a stellar season in the 2023 County Championship, picking up 49 wickets at an average of 20.00 for Hampshire. He also scored three centuries and averaged 40.00 with the bat. By comparison, Hartley took 19 wickets in the Championship at this year at an average of 44.84.
“Liam Dawson didn’t make himself unavailable for this trip at all,” said Key. “Again, Liam Dawson is probably not someone that wants to go around India as the 15th or 16th man. If he’s going to play and he’s going to feature then he’s someone that wants to do that. But if he’s not, then I don’t think that’s high on his agenda to be going as effectively a replacement bowler. So that’s where we ended up with Liam Dawson… We also feel, for the style of bowling, someone like Hartley, our bet is that he’ll be a real handful out there and you’ve obviously got Leach to lead the attack with the ball.
“You almost have to a little bit disregard what’s happened in county cricket, because it’s a very different style of bowling, and trying to work out who’s going to be the best players for what we’re coming up against, and that’s where we’ve ended up.”
Will Jacks and Liam Livingstone are also absent from the squad, having been selected as spinning all-rounders for the series in Pakistan last year. On Jacks missing out, Key said: “For these conditions, you want people who are generally a bit quicker [than Jacks] and also [you want] your best spinners, not your best spinners who bat a little bit.
“In the off-spin department, you’ve obviously got Joe Root who can do a job as well, and then you’re making a decision with Will Jacks. And we spoke about this from the summer – is it better for them to be going around carrying drinks throughout India? Or can they then go and play franchise cricket when we’ve got a World T20 coming up? So that was a decision with Will Jacks.”
England’s series in India will begin on January 25, with the final Test set to start in early March. Gus Atkinson has also been included in the squad as an uncapped player, with Ben Foakes earning a Test recall.
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