Jack Leach never lost faith in his Test ambitions – even when he had to remodel an illegal kink in his bowling action while the chance of touring India passed him by.
That was almost 18 months ago, and the 26-year-old left-arm spinner believes he is not only a better bowler for the urgent remedial work he had done back then but has an improved chance of meeting the challenges of international cricket.
Leach, called up to join England’s two-Test tour of New Zealand, presented a compelling case to replace injured leg-spinner Mason Crane after his record-breaking exploits in the Lions’ otherwise unsuccessful Caribbean tour last month.
He acknowledges the “shock” of discovering his action was not within International Cricket Council limits but puts it down as one more bend in the road en route to England recognition.
“I always believed this was where I was going to get to – I definitely did,” he said. “I think those little lower moments definitely made me stronger and helped me.
“No doubt there will be more. I try not to get too emotional and just learn from every opportunity.”
He has moved on, with another outstanding season in the Specsavers County Championship and then the best ever Lions’ match haul of eight for 110 against West Indies A in Jamaica.
But recalling the moment he was told his action was not perfect, he said: “I was shocked.
This is just a step in the direction I want to goJack Leach
“I think all that was on my mind was that I had to sort it out.
“The biggest thing I didn’t like was being worried that (people might think) it was like cheating and that wasn’t something I was trying to do.
“I just didn’t understand my bowling well enough, and actually that’s why I look back on it as a real positive, what I went through.”
He is in no doubt that the experience has helped him improve.
“It made me understand my bowling a lot better – it’s made me a better bowler,” he said.
What a feeling!!! Thanks for the amazing support. Canât wait to get out to New Zealand and get stuck in 🌰🏴— Jack Leach (@jackleach1991) March 16, 2018
“It was a good thing to find that out, and something that’s probably pushed me on.
“I got re-tested in the January, and all my deliveries were under [ICC limits], but it wasn’t until the back-end of last season that I started to feel mentally back to normal.”
If those memories have become less troubling with time, more recent ones need no such filtering after his call-up to this tour immediately changed his mood while he was on a Somerset pre-season golf trip in Cornwall.
“We’d had a couple of days golf, and I’d just played the worst round of my life and lost to [Somerset director of cricket] Andy Hurry,” he said.
“It turned into a very good day, and it was nice to be with the Somerset boys to share the news. They were all chuffed for me.”
Great news to wake up to! Nut on tour. 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻 https://t.co/yBPktdT14K— Jos Buttler (@josbuttler) March 16, 2018
Leach knows, though, that it is far from job done. He is highly likely to remain uncapped over the next two weeks, but can look forward with optimism not just to the summer ahead but next winter’s tours of spin-friendly Sri Lanka and West Indies.
“This is just a step in the direction I want to go,” he said.
“I don’t want to stop and celebrate too much. I want to keep pushing and keep working hard to then make my debut and try to force myself into a place where I want to be a successful England player.
“I’m quite an ambitious guy so I’ll be working hard to try to make (it) happen.”