New Delhi: England Test coach Brendon McCullum expressed his delight at the team’s “educated punt” on left-arm spinner Tom Hartley, who went from being belted around the park in the first innings to spearheading the team to a historic victory against India, marking a remarkable debut in Test cricket.
Hartley’s Test debut Test was a rollercoaster, with the 24-year-old left-arm spinner despite conceding 131 runs in the first innings set aside a poor performance to pick a sensational 7-62 as England clinched a famous 28-run win over India in the Test series opener.
Speaking on SEN Radio, McCullum revealed that the decision to include Hartley in the playing XI raised eyebrows, considering his limited first-class experience. “Sometimes you’ve got to be a little bit brave with your selection as well. If you like a character and if you like the skillset, and you think he is going to suit the conditions, then it’s kind of an educated punt.”
Furthermore, McCullum said he and Ben Stokes were impressed by Hartley’s character and skill set during their training sessions in Abu Dhabi before arriving in India. The decision to select him was described as an “educated punt,” drawing parallels with the early days of Australian spinner Nathan Lyon, who had a modest first-class record before becoming a stalwart for his national side.
“When he picked Tom, people sort of raised their eyebrows a little bit. But let’s not forget, I think this is quite a pertinent point, I think Nathan Lyon played only a handful of first-class cricket and averaged 40-odd before he got picked for Australia and he has gone on to have a fabulous career. I think when you see guys who you think are good enough and you think are going to suit the conditions, it’s sort of horses for courses.
“So you got to back your judgment. He was the guy who we saw a little bit of and we thought would be able to perform in conditions like this. No one ever foresees 7 for 60-odd on debut or 9 for the match,” he added.
Facing a daunting 190-run deficit after the first innings, England, led by captain Stokes, staged a remarkable comeback to secure their greatest victory in what has been dubbed the “Bazball era”.
The former New Zealand captain also heaped praise on Stokes’s captaincy, highlighting his trust in Hartley as a pivotal factor in the team’s success.
“He was fantastic. I thought the way the captain Ben Stokes, the way he handled Tom Hartley in the first innings when he bowled him in an extended spell regardless of him being put under pressure by the Indian batters, I thought that was a real sign of leadership.
“Also, it was a clear message to not just Tom, but also to those around the squad that when we talk about freedom, when we talk about taking the game on and making a difference, you are not going to be cast aside or taken off the crease at the first sign of danger,” McCullum said.