Jack Leach had a wonderful 2016 summer © Getty Images
Jack Leach, the Somerset left-arm spinner, says he was “shocked” not to be considered for a call-up to England’s tour of India due to concerns over the legality of his bowling action.
The ECB confirmed on Tuesday that the problem was raised during routine testing at the national academy in Loughborough following the end of the season in which Leach had taken 65 wickets at 21 in the County Championship. Leach has never been reported for a suspect action by the umpires.
While Somerset – Leach’s club – insist the issue was minor, it is likely it convinced the England selectors not to consider him as a replacement for Zafar Ansari when he was forced home from India due to injury. Hampshire’s Liam Dawson was called-up in Ansari’s place.
Instead, Leach took his place on the England Lions tour of the UAE where we underwent remedial work on his bowling action while also continuing to play. He claimed 3 for 7 in a one-day match against UAE and 2 for 25 in the four-day encounter against Afghanistan then was named in the squad for the tour of Sri Lanka in February.
Leach has admitted he was “shocked” when ECB tests showed he had an illegal bowling action.
“When I did the test and they told me I was as shocked as anyone,” said Leach. “It was only a very small thing in terms of my body position – and it wasn’t helping me bowl a doosra or anything like that.
“After that I just worked my nuts off to be honest, with Peter Such from the Lions and Jason Kerr back at Somerset, in terms of making the changes I needed to. I’ve made a hell of a lot of progress, and I was pleased with the way it went out in the UAE.
“The important thing is I’ve come to terms with it, and I feel like I’m going to be a better bowler in the future for sorting it out.”
The news – and timing of the news – is intriguing. In contrast to most illegal bowling action reports, there had hardly been a whisper of protest about Leach’s action throughout the county season. Quite the contrary: it appeared orthodox and strong and it is understood that no umpires reported any concerns with it. Coming just as England slipped to a 4-0 defeat, it might be seen to deflect attention from some surprising selections and suggest the selectors were powerless to offer alternatives to India’s spin attack.
“Jack really has worked like a Trojan since the initial assessment,” Such, the ECB’s lead spin-bowling coach, said. “He’s only made slight modifications but they make a big difference, and we’ve seen really significant progress.”
“Jack had a tremendous season for Somerset and is an outstanding player and team member,” Matthew Maynard, Somerset’s director of cricket, said. “Whilst he was picked up for a minor abnormality in his bowling action during routine testing at the end of the season, this was quickly addressed with remedial work, allowing him to play for England Lions over the last few weeks. I have every confidence that he will be playing for England in the future and that there is no major issue with his bowling action.”
Towards the end of the 2016 season, as Leach spearheaded Somerset’s push for a maiden Championship title, his captain Chris Rogers suggested he was not yet ready for Test cricket.
“I am still a big believer that you need more than one good season to play for England,” Rogers said after Leach had taken 6 for 64 at Headingley. “With Jack, I think his game’s in order, I think emotionally he still has a bit of a way to go and I don’t think he’s be upset with me saying that.
“He is still a young guy, he has only ever been in Somerset and the challenges in international cricket are a lot more difficult.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo