Root and Silverwood have the Jack Leach that they created

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The England Test team run by Joe Root and Chris Silverwood is not big on picking spinners. It is even less big on picking Jack Leach. A rare appearance in the first Ashes Test saw the left-armer get walloped, so how comfortable will the two head honchos be about picking him again? Perhaps the two of them should consider going back in time to try and build their first-choice spinner up a bit.

It seems fair to say that Root has a somewhat peculiar record when it comes to managing the spinners available to him. Adil Rashid was binned at the start of his captaincy before being brought back again on more than one occasion. It was also during his tenure that England gave three consecutive Test caps to spinners: Mason Crane, Jack Leach and Dom Bess.

Moeen Ali appeared to be one man who was at least sometimes blessed with the confidence of his captain – but how much of that was down to his spin bowling and how much due to his magnificent malleability?

For his part, Leach has never especially let anyone down, but he has been left out in the name of team balance so many times he must be starting to think he’s made of dark matter.

Sometimes England think Leach’s batting unbalances them, even though he once made 92 opening the batting in a Test and also hit the greatest 1 not out you’re ever likely to see.

On other occasions they convince themselves that the mere inclusion of a spinner unbalances them – a bizarre belief that seems to have manifested itself ever more frequently in the Silverwood era. His England teams have now played without one on half a dozen occasions. Not smart.

The upshot is that Jack Leach is the first-choice spinner who England would do almost anything not to pick. And now he has been savaged.

What does that mean, both now and into the future? Does it mean that Root and Silverwood were justified in their reluctance to trust him? Or have they in fact missed a whole host of opportunities to build up their best spinner so that he had more to fall back on when times got tough? More experience, more self-confidence, more goodwill from the men who pass judgement on his worth from one game to the next? All of these things come as a package.

England’s management team will no doubt talk supportively. Bowling coach Jon Lewis has already called Leach “a pretty resilient fella” – which is just as well given the team’s broader attitude to him and his art. Root and/or Silverwood will presumably back him in some way or other after the Test too. But these are just words.

Actions are famously more audible and this England team have opted to play without any kind of spinner on no fewer than six occasions. They have played without Leach a great many more times. At what point during a Test does a bowler start to dwell on the fact that his foundations are built on quicksand? After the match? After 10 overs? After being hit for the first six?

Leach averaged 29.98 going into this series, but he last played a Test in March. He has shown himself to be be a pretty good bowler, but it’s hard to move from ‘pretty good’ to ‘good’ when you’re only picked in conditions that suit you. Leach is not great on flat pitches and the way Root and Silverwood treat him, he never will be.

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13 comments

    1. Whaaaaaaat?

      From what little we know of him, we can believe that Fleming has at some point or other read this site.

  1. There are certain statistics that leave you with a feeling that more could have been done.

    Steve Waugh’s average at 5 is so ridiculous that maybe he should have batted at 4.

    And Katich should have bowled more. Maybe he might have developed into a Sanath Jayasuriya-esque bowler (the test match version)

  2. Silverwood/Root have shown themselves to be so inept at picking teams that I think both should be removed from the decision making process. I propose a new selector and I have the perfect candidate in mind: ORAC, the old computer in Blake’s 7. Given that stats and computers seem to have an unhealthy emphasis within the England set-up it makes perfect sense.

  3. It’s not so much that England refuse to pick a spinner, it’s that they specifically refuse to pick Leach. Would love to know how many overs he has bowled outside the subcontinent in the last 2 years, but I doubt anyone has watched more cricket. At some point last summer for example, it surely would have made sense to not pick Dom Bess for a couple of games than not pick Jack Leach.

    Disappointed really that we havent seen any Malan filth yet, but that might be coming

  4. If England had failed to pick a spinner for the Manchester Test (that didn’t happen) last year, I was going to try and get the other 3 people I was going with to make signs with one word each of the phrase ‘Always Pick A Spinner’ and then hold a small protest.

    Maybe there’s a line of merchandise in that?

    1. Hope, like a small child, is definitely one of those visitors that it’s nice to have round, but as soon as they’ve gone you start complaining about all the mess they’ve made.

      1. It’s nice to have some peace and quiet after Hope has gone home. You had started to argue quite a bit. But after a few days you start to miss how Hope makes you feel. You beg forgiveness and Hope comes back, promising this time will be different. But it never is.

    1. The problem is that Leach isn’t as good as he could be but that’s not really anything Root or Silverwood could do anything about. He needs to play when the weather is drying out the pitches but they don’t do four day games in the summer anymore

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