Left-arm spin in an India-England Test series often throws up two names — Ashley Giles and Monty Panesar.
In 2001, Giles had executed the leg-side trap to perfection, especially against Sachin Tendulkar. He picked up six wickets in two Tests. Panesar ran through the Indian batsmen in 2012 by bowling quicker through the air. With 17 wickets in three Tests, he was one of the stars in the historic series win for England.
This time, the spotlight is on Jack Leach. England has already discussed the idea of exploring the leg-side angle and Leach’s work ethics could well turn him into a magician.
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England batsman Tom Banton, who is part of the limited-overs setup, expects Leach to stand out in the four-match series starting with the first Test in Chennai on Thursday.
“He is always looking to get better. He has good work ethics. Whenever I am around, he is always training harder and working on things,” Banton told Sportstar on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi T10 League in the United Arab Emirates.
With 44 wickets in only 12 Tests at a strike-rate of 62.2, Leach cemented his spot in the Test side. “Good things happen to people who are finding ways to improve. I hope Leach does well in the series,” he added.
Banton, who has played six ODIs and nine T20Is for England, could earn a place in the limited-overs squad for the tour of India but his dream is to play red-ball cricket. “I don’t want to play only white-ball. I want to play Test cricket though realistically I know it may not happen for a while. I just want to be back into the grind of red-ball cricket. My plan is to go back and play a full season for Somerset.
“India-England is going to be a great series. India is one of the best teams in the world which has just beaten Australia, which is fantastic for them. But [Joe] Root is playing really well, the spinners are bowling well, so I don’t really know what’s going to happen. I think playing in India is quite a mental grind. So it will be a challenge for England.”
Banton declared his love for India opener Shubman Gill, his contemporary from the U-19 days, who excelled in Australia. "It is awesome to watch him. I am really happy for him. He trains really hard, and he is a good lad as well," said the right-hander.
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The flamboyant batsman also shared the dressing room with Gill in the Indian Premier League 2020 for Kolkata Knight Riders.
Banton represents the Qalandars in the T10 League. A proven 360 degree batter with an outrageous reverse sweep that can go beyond the fence, he wants to face different bowlers. “We want to hit the balls out of the ground like the West Indians do, such as Nicholas Pooran, that’s what I am trying to improve by playing T10 cricket. There are a lot of guys who I haven’t seen before. You get to see different bowlers when you go around the world," he said.
For advice, he has been sitting next to Shahid Afridi in the players enclosure. "I have spoken to him a little bit. He is quiet to be honest, keeps to himself but he is a legend of the game. Not just to pick his brains but just to be around him and to observe how he goes about his cricket is surreal," Banton signed off.
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