Mason Crane is happy to bide his time in first-class cricket after a challenging past couple of years as the Hampshire leg-spinner revealed his more immediate focus is to “ride the white-ball wave”.
Crane became England’s youngest specialist spinner in 90 years when, aged 20, he made his Test debut in the 2017-18 Ashes in Sydney, where he was praised by Shane Warne despite finishing with unflattering figures of one for 193.
He has slid down the pecking order since then following a stress fracture in his back in 2018 and while he excelled in the shorter formats last year, he averaged in excess of 100 in six Specsavers County Championship matches.
Hampshire’s decision to sign Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon is likely to restrict Crane’s opportunities this year but, still only 22, the youngster recognises he has time on his side in which to fulfil his potential.
And, as with many leg-break bowlers around the world, Crane is prioritising the limited-overs formats, at least in the next few months.
“I’m pretty much prepared to just work on my game this year,” he said. “It’s something that’s not ideal for me but not the end of the world. I basically get a free hit for a year and I’m going to see what I can do.
“My attitude in training this winter with the red-ball – I’ve obviously trained as if I’m going to play – is very much that I’m going to ride the white-ball wave and see where it takes me.
“I’ve got a lot of time on my hands. You look at a lot of really great spin bowlers, they don’t come into their own until they’re quite later on, I’m still 22 years old.
I've got a lot of time but obviously I can't be using that excuse forever.Mason Crane
“When I was involved at the Ashes and made my Test debut, I sort of realised how young I was then.
“I’ve got a lot of time but obviously I can’t be using that excuse forever. In an ideal world, I start bowling really well and I get to where I want to be, but I understand that red-ball might take a bit longer for me.”
Lyon, who has taken 390 wickets in 96 Tests for Australia, has been signed on a red-ball only deal by Hampshire, meaning Crane will likely be the club’s first-choice spinner in the Royal London One-Day Cup and Vitality Blast.
Crane was pragmatic about the decision to bring in Lyon – not least because he can take advantage of the footmarks made by left-arm seamer Keith Barker – and did not rule out a short-term move at some stage.
He added: “I can see the rationale behind it. I can understand that when I did play (in the championship last year), I maybe didn’t cover myself in glory so I can’t complain.
“If I’m bowling well enough and I feel like I should be playing in a game, if I can’t fit in the side then maybe I’ll look at a loan but I think it’s too early to make decisions like that.”
Crane, who has two Twenty20 international caps, has been included in England Lions’ white-ball squad for their forthcoming tour of Australia, comprising of five 50-over matches.
He has fond memories of Down Under. As well as earning his sole Test cap in Australia, he became the first overseas player to represent New South Wales since Imran Khan in 1985 when he made his Sheffield Shield debut in March 2017.
“This tour, I don’t think, quite frankly, I deserve to be on it, it didn’t cross my mind,” Crane added.
“But I love going back there, I love the style of cricket so I’m looking forward to it.”