Left-arm spinner embraces pressure as he prepares for the “ultimate test”
Jack Leach is promising to “cherish” every moment of the Test series in India despite knowing it represents the “ultimate” challenge.
Leach returned to England’s Test team in Sri Lanka after an absence of 14-months during which he has admitted he both feared for his life and his career. As a result, he has a clear sense of perspective about the task in front of him and is determined to “enjoy” every moment.
“Having missed so much cricket you have to remember to cherish and enjoy these moments,” Leach said. “It’s my first time in India and to come here and bowl spin is the dream I had. So I just see it as a fantastic opportunity and one I want to enjoy.
“It feels really good to be back playing cricket. That is what I get paid to do, so to be playing again is a really nice feeling.
“There is pressure all the time when you play for England. In India, there is maybe a bit more pressure with what wickets could be like. India are obviously a great side and they’ve got all bases covered so I wouldn’t want to make too many assumptions. I just know if I can get myself in the right headspace and bowling how I know I can, then I can be effective.
“Is it the ultimate test? Yes, I think so. It doesn’t get much more exciting. I think they’re a quality side coming off the back of a great win in Australia. But I feel like it’s a great opportunity to test ourselves against probably the best side in the world. It’s just a great opportunity, isn’t it?
Leach admitted he was – understandably – a little “rusty” at times in the Sri Lanka series. But while there were moments his control was not, perhaps, all he would have wanted it to be, he did still end the series with 10 wickets from the two Tests and felt he would be better for the overs he had delivered.
“It’s fair to say at times I did feel a little bit rusty,” Leach said. “You can do all you want in the nets but to get back out and play those games has been useful.
“I feel like the way the ball came out wasn’t exactly how I would like it. But I have to accept I haven’t had much cricket in recent times and taking wickets in the second innings is always a confidence boost.
“I feel good for the cricket and the overs but feel I have more to offer. I am probably someone who is never happy in a way and there is more improvement from me to come. Sri Lanka was a good start and I feel like I am going in the right direction.”
Given that time out of the game, Leach and co. could have done without another six days in quarantine. But he accepted it is the same for both sides and has no complaints.
“It is not the ideal prep,” he said, “but it has been the same for India. I have done some reflecting and bowled a few in the mirror. But I’m eager to get back out there tomorrow and get some base training in before the first Test.”
The England squad will train together for the first time on this leg of the tour on Tuesday. It is the first of just three training days they have before the start of the first Test on Friday.
Part of Leach’s time in quarantine has been spent watching videos of England’s spinners on previous tours. In particular, he has revisited the 2012 series which saw Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann bowl England to a memorable victory. While he cautions against comparisons with Panesar – who bowled a fair bit quicker – he hopes his own left-arm spin can “make an impact.”
“They are two bowlers I love to watch,” he said. “I watch a lot of spin videos and try to take things for everyone I watch.
“Monty bowled an amazing pace. On a spinning wicket, that can be very tricky. I am probably not going to be bowling at the same speeds but it is more about how the ball gets there in terms of trajectory. There have been some very successful bowlers who don’t bowl as fast as Monty.
“For me, it is knowing what my optimum pace is and going up and down a little from there. But trying to get as much energy on the ball and deceive them that way. Everyone has an optimum pace and I think it’s important to try and stick to that as much as possible.
“I definitely think I can make an impact in the series. I think they’ve got a lot of right-handers so I see that as a good thing for me. I feel I can make a good impression and do good things to that Indian line-up.”
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo