Jack Leach is aware of the competition for places in the England Test squad as he works his way back into the setup following the bout of sepsis that kept him out of the South Africa tour earlier this year. England's extended 30-man squad for the series against West Indies includes five frontline spinners, including Leach. Apart from Leach, the squad features Dom Bess, who replaced him in South Africa, Moeen Ali, who returns after a hiatus from red-ball cricket, and newcomers Amar Virdi and Matt Parkinson.
"We've got five really good spinners," Leach said. "It feels like there's everything to play for. There's lots of competition throughout the squad and spin is no different. It's about us all working together to be at our best. It's up to the selectors and not up to us who takes that spot, but I'm so glad to see Mo back as well. When he's at his best, he's an unbelievable player."
More acknowledged for his role with the bat in the Headingley thriller against Australia in the Ashes and his match-winning 92 as a nightwatchman opening the batting against Ireland, Leach has clocked decent numbers with the ball, which is his primary skill. In 10 Test matches, the left-arm spinner has 34 wickets at an average of 29.02.
"I pride myself on my bowling, because that's why I've been picked in the team - I want to be bowling teams out on the last day, and remembered for that - but obviously everyone wants to talk about Headingley, and it'll be hard for people not to remember that,” Leach said through videolink from England's camp at the Ageas Bowl.
Leach will have to convince the selectors that he is better than Bess and Ali, though. While Bess impressed with a five-wicket haul at Port Elizabeth in the third Test in South Africa, Ali has the best strike rate for spinners with at least 50 wickets in England since World War II.
Leach believes that if he can find the right headspace, he will pose genuine competition to the aforementioned names. Towards that end, he seeks to take inspiration from his performance with the bat at Headingley where he dug in for 17 balls, scoring just one run, as Ben Stokes went about completing a sensational one-wicket heist at the other end.
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"I probably overthink at times, and that's a mental thing that I've been working hard on. In my best moments, there hasn't been a lot going through my mind. I think back to when I was out there with Stokes, and how focused I felt.
"It was a simple focus on what I was trying to do, and I want to apply that to my bowling as well - find that headspace where I can give my absolute best. I'll be in the team longer if I bowl well, but if I keep getting remembered for batting innings, I'll take that because I'll be doing something right if I'm playing a lot."