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Jack Leach
Jack Leach - 📸 Somerset CC

England have fought a good campaign in India.

India are arguably the best home team in Test history, winning a remarkable 17 consecutive Test series on home turf, but this England side have challenged them on numerous occasions over the past month.

There have been moments of hope, the win in the first Test set out a stall of England’s intent and had India worried, and they’ve fought three out of the four games so far with real gusto, symbolic of Bazball.

Ultimately, even for the plaudits that England’s style of play has received, the surmounting of the behemoth that is Indian cricket at home was a summit that even Ben Stokes and co. couldn’t quite reach.

Injuries have certainly meant that England’s selection has strayed from creature comforts under this regime but that is pretty incomparable to the injuries and unavailability that India has suffered over the course of this series. For England, a full strength side and nothing less would be their best shot at the toughest series in cricket.

Harry Brook, Rehan Ahmed and Jack Leach have been three losses who would have undoubtedly had a big role to play for England throughout the series but have missed out on at least some part of the series.

Whether they would have ultimately provided a match-winning moments will remain unknown but England would certainly have been stronger with them in the side throughout.

Brook and Ahmed both returned home off the back of emergencies that required their presence.

Rehan Ahmed
Rehan Ahmed

Jack Leach’s absence though came through a knee injury sustained in the first Test. This injury marks the most recent set-back in a stop-start international career for the Somerset man.

A back injury on the eve of the Australia series in the summer was seriously unlucky and left England scrambling for a replacement which in a lot of ways shows the significance of Leach to Stokes’ side.

Moeen Ali was the choice in the end and was hauled out of retirement but he was only ever a short-term option. A series in the subcontinent would have been a relishing challenge for Leach to remind England fans what they’d been missing after that summer but it wasn’t to be.

Sickness often brought on by his Crohn’s disease has caused many absences over the years, the fact he battles this affliction to still be England's premier spin bowler is quite remarkable. It does come at a cost though and Leach has struggled to maintain a run in the side.

That said, since his debut in 2018, he has managed to pick up 126 wickets in his 36 England games.

The worrying signs are that injuries, albeit different ones, seem to keep appearing - the most unusual of these was his concussion sustained whilst chasing a ball in the field in 2022.

Whilst his action seems repeatable and doesn’t appear to overly strain him, Leach is getting older - he turns 33 this summer. As popular as he is in the camp, particularly with Ben Stokes, the time may come in the near future to look for a more consistent player in the side.

In good news though, unlike the dearth of spin bowlers that England had in the wake of Graeme Swann’s unexpected mid-tour retirement during the Ashes in 2013/14, the country do have a few options.

This tour of India has shown there is life after Leach with Tom Hartley, Shoaib Bashir and Rehan Ahmed all showing huge signs of promise. 

In terms of style and experience, Hartley would be the most like-for-like replacement with his left-armers matching Leach. 

Take nothing away from Bashir though who has really shown great promise for such a wildcard pick by England for this tour. Rehan Ahmed too has shown great promise and although perhaps not as consistent just yet, his batting adds a dynamic that Leach (for all his heroics at Headingley in 2019) doesn’t provide for the England team.

So will we see more of Leach after this latest setback and the success of his replacements? Almost certainly.

Stokes has a clear love for Leach as do the England dressing room and whilst that shouldn’t be the basis for a selection, Leach is probably the best Test spinner England have produced since Swann.

McCullum and Stokes do have more of a dilemma on their hands though than they used to and players are knocking on the door to replace Leach with real cases.

England may still not have won in India with Leach but it was a huge loss - the question is now does he still have the strength and drive to fight his way back in.


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