England captain Joe Root has cautioned against burdening Mason Crane with expectation after the leg-spinner earned his first Test call-up.
Crane was a surprise inclusion for next week’s Investec Series opener against the West Indies, the first Test on these shores to be played as a day/night game with a pink ball.
Whether or not he gets the nod depends on whether England revert to picking two spinners or stick with the formula that brought success against South Africa the Oval and Old Trafford, but to earn selection after just 25 first-class games hints at a special talent.
There is, of course, something endlessly appealing about a young wrist-spinning prospect and while Root cannot hide his own enthusiasm, he hopes the 20-year-old will be given room to develop.
“It’s exciting as a captain because he is a very talented young cricketer and he’s got a very bright future,” Root told Press Association Sport.
“But it’s important we don’t put too much pressure on him or expect too much from him at such a young age.
“He is fully deserving of the opportunity he’s got in this squad and I’m very excited to see him go about his business. He’s a very confident young man and hopefully he has a lot to offer England.”
Crane comes into the squad at the same time as Surrey’s Mark Stoneman, replacing the out-of-form Keaton Jennings as the latest candidate to audition for England’s problem opening slot.
If both feature against the Windies that would be a total of five debutants since Root became captain at the start of the summer, following Tom Westley, Dawid Malan and Toby Roland-Jones.
With an Ashes tour looming large on the horizon, the selectors will keen to nail down a more settled side in the coming weeks and Root is looking for individuals to underline their claims.
“Ideally we’d want to nail it down soon but it’s a great opportunity for players to throw their hands up for what is an exciting winter,” he said.
“Mark and Mason fully full deserve their opportunities in the squad and there are three Tests here where they can potentially put a strong case forward for the winter.
“Tom Westley came in and performed well against South Africa on some spicy wickets at the top of the order. It’s great to see guys putting their hands up with strong performances like that and his challenge over the next three games is to drive that forward and make some really big scores.”
England will also continue to monitor the fitness of Chris Woakes, with the all-rounder just one game into his comeback after two months out with a side strain.
“Whether he’s 100 per cent fit is not exactly sure yet,” admitted Root.
“We have nearly another week until the first Test and we will have to monitor that over the course of the week in terms of selection.”
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