- Jack Leach will lead a three-pronged spin attack in the first Test in Hyderabad
- Tom Hartley will make his Test debut as seamer Jimmy Anderson misses out
- EXCLUSIVE: Shoaib Bashir flies back to the UK to get his visa rubber-stamped
England will play all three available spinners in the first Test against India, with just one seam option in Mark Wood.
Jimmy Anderson has not made the cut in an XI that will feature Lancashire team-mate Tom Hartley on debut in a three-pronged spin attack plus the part-time off-breaks of Joe Root.
The first Test will start on Thursday in Hyderabad, on a pitch that the tourists are seemingly anticipating to see plenty of turn.
England’s selection is a major gamble as they name a very junior attack, with Jack Leach the senior spinner alongside 19-year-old Rehan Ahmed and Hartley.
The first clash of five of these two teams comes against the backdrop of Shoaib Bashir’s controversial visa struggles, with the Somerset spinner forced to fly back to the UK in order to try and speed up the delays.
Ben Stokes and England will field a three-pronged spin attack in the first Test against India
Paceman Mark Wood will provide the only seam option in the attack for England in Hyderabad
England’s leading wicket taker Jimmy Anderson did not make the cut for the first Test – but the veteran will have plenty of opportunities to take part in the five-match series in India
The inclusion of Wood – capable of bringing express pace to the attack – as the only seam option sees record wicket-taker Anderson drop to the sidelines for the first Test, although he will surely have plenty of opportunities to feature in a tour that lasts until mid-March.
However, with Wood largely a bowler of shorter, imposing bursts, it looks set to be an attack that will operate at an entirely different rhythm.
Root is expected to be involved heavily in addition to the three regular spinners, with captain Stokes hinting that his predecessor could even open the bowling.
With Harry Brook leaving the touring party for the UK for personal reasons, Jonny Bairstow returns to his role as specialist batter, with Ben Foakes taking the gloves.
The Surrey keeper starred against New Zealand and South Africa in the infancy of Brendon McCullum’s reign as head coach, before being dropped for Bairstow in the Ashes series last summer.
‘We all know the impact Jonny made in my first summer as captain,’ said Stokes ahead of announcing his team to face India.
‘And there’s no doubt about the skill Ben Foakes possesses with the gloves.’
He added: ‘He can not only do things other keepers can’t, but also make them look incredibly easy,’ said Stokes.
Lancashire left-armer Tom Hartley makes his Test debut against India in Thursday’s first clash
Ben Foakes (above) will keep wicket with Jonny Bairstow moving up the England batting order
Shoaib Bashir is unable to join England in India due to visa issues owing to his Pakistani origins
Stokes voiced his frustration at Bashir being unable to enter India with the England squad
‘He’s a very special talent behind there and having someone like that who can maybe take a 2 per cent, 3 per cent chance, that could be massive in the series.’
With Bashir’s involvement in the first Test ultimately out of England’s hands, Stokes admitted his frustration with the situation, the captain himself returning from knee surgery.
‘We named our squad in mid-December and now Bash finds himself without a visa,’ he said.
‘I’m more frustrated for him. I didn’t want this type of situation to be his first experience of what it’s like to be in the England Test team. I’m devastated for him.’