Jack Leach: I developed COVID-19-like symptoms in South Africa

The England spinner says he is now “fit and healthy” and looking to make a mark in the Test series against West Indies.

Jack Leach is one of five spinners in the England squad for the Test series against West Indies.   -  Getty Images,

England spinner Jack Leach has revealed he developed symptoms similar to those of COVID-19 while in South Africa earlier this year.

The left-arm spinner had returned home from South Africa in January after struggling to recover from sepsis (immune system’s over reaction to infection). He also contracted flu before the Centurion Test.

“I guess we’ll never know. If you had those symptoms I had in South Africa now, you’d say this is definitely coronavirus. But I feel healthy and fit, and I want to stay that way as much as possible,” Leach, who has suffered from Crohn’s disease (inflammatory bowel disease) since the age of 14, said in a video call.

“There’s nothing I can do about what happened in the winter... but I’m quite lucky my Crohn’s is under control. There are people who suffer a lot worse than me. I don’t feel sorry for myself, I want to play as much cricket as possible and stay fit and healthy,” he said.

Leach is one of five spinners in the England squad selected for the three-Test series against West Indies that begins on July 8. The other spinners are: Dom Bess, Moeen Ali, Amar Virdi and Matt Parkinson.

The Headingley knock

Leach feels if he can find the right headspace, he can cut through the competition for places. He is looking to take inspiration from his batting performance in the Ashes Test in Headingley in 2019 where he hung in for 17 balls with Ben Stokes to complete a sensational one-wicket win. “I probably overthink at times, and that’s a mental thing that I’ve been working hard on. In my best moments, there hasn’t been a lot going through my mind. I think back to when I was out there with Stokes, and how focused I felt,” he said.

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“It was a simple focus on what I was trying to do, and I want to apply that to my bowling as well - find that headspace where I can give my absolute best...if I keep getting remembered for batting innings, I’ll take that because I’ll be doing something right if I’m playing a lot.”

Having suffered multiple health issues, Leach’s immune system may not be the best he said he was feeling much safer here in a bio-secure environment. “The medication that I’m on puts me a little bit of a higher risk, but actually what I came through in the winter suggests that I can fight things off quite well. The fact that I am fit, and reasonably healthy apart from that, gives me a good chance as well,” Leach said.

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“I’ve been doing everything I need to do to stick by the rules, as has everyone else around me, but I’m not too nervous. I feel safe here in a bio-secure environment.”

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