Cook: Ansari can be my right-hand man
ZAFAR Ansari hopes to stake a claim for a place in England’s team for India after being handed his Test debut in Bangladesh today.
The Surrey left-arm spinner was set to take his place in England’s XI when the second Test started in Dhaka this morning.
Captain Alastair Cook, speaking on the eve of the series finale, revealed Ansari will replace his Surrey colleague Gareth Batty and suggested it was an opportunity for him to put himself in contention for the five-Test series in India that follows this tour.
The 24-year-old, who sat out England’s 22-run win in the first Test in Chittagong, is keen to accept the challenge, saying: “It’s an opportunity to stake a claim. I think it is clearly a way of seeing how I go in Test cricket.
“It’s a one-off in some ways and I just want to go out there and if I bowl well then I give myself a chance in India with more righthanders and potential spinning wickets out there.”
India, the world’s No.1 team, have a top-order packed with right-handers and Cook believes Ansari could prove key if he settles quickly into Test cricket.
“Clearly he has the ability to take the ball away from the right-handers,” said Cook. “It will be really interesting to see how he goes. You see the success Ravindra Jadeja (the India left-arm spinner) has bowling wicket-to-wicket. So yes I think Zafar could challenge for that series.” Ansari would have made his Test debut against Pakistan in the UAE last winter had it not been for a freak thumb injury he sustained just hours after his call-up and which took him seven months to recover from. A year later, he has come full circle. “Getting into the squad was the moment I thought I’d overcome last winter and everything I went through,” he said. “To have got back to this point quite quickly feels like an achievement.” Ansari’s maiden first-class wicket was Cook, who fell to the left-armer when playing for Essex against Cambridge University in 2011. (A year before TCP’s first issue, which featured Ansari as our ‘Young Gun’, right. ) Ansari, who graduated with a double first and is awaiting the results from a Masters degree on the US Civil Rights movement, said: “My main memory is I bowled 30odd overs without taking a wicket, and he tried to reverse sweep me and dragged on. “It wasn’t a magical moment. I don’t think my selection owes much to that! I don’t think he knew who I was – just some ropey university spin bowler!”
Catch that! England skipper Alastair Cook in training this week and below, new cap Zafar Ansari. Far right: Our ‘Young Gun’ feature on Ansari from the very first issue of TCP in 2012