Word on the street is that Hampshire slow bowler Mason Crane is very special and on track to be the top-class leg-spinner England have craved for many a year.
I still know a lot of people at my former club Hampshire – my dad is director of cricket there – and in terms of natural talent and how he bowls his normal leg-spin delivery, Crane is meant to be the best around.
He’s only 20 yet is very consistent for someone so young, having already taken 50 first-class wickets, and is someone who is very confident in his own ability and believes in himself.
Australia great Shane Warne took masses of wickets during his career by being confident and getting the better of the opposition with mind games. Apparently, Crane displays very similar traits.
Warne, incidentally, didn’t take his 50th first-class wicket until he was 23, nor make his Sheffield Shield debut before he turned 21, two milestones Crane bettered earlier this month while playing for New South Wales.
After a successful winter playing grade cricket for Gordon CC, Crane was called up for the State side – the first overseas player to represent New South Wales since Pakistan’s Imran Khan in 1985 – and that’s an unbelievable achievement.
The Sussex-born right-armer clearly has something special and there are likely to be big things ahead. His name will have flickered on the radar of England selectors during the final North versus South pre-season one-day clash this week when he claimed 4-39 from eight overs.
Even though most places are likely to be nailed on by now, I believe Crane could force his way into England’s squad for the Champions Trophy in June. Liam Dawson has been in England one-day squads but not been selected to play that spinning role and there is Adil Rashid of course, but I can see him being involved.
Whether that happens or not, I do think the former England Under-19 bowler is someone to look out for long term across all formats of the game. Even though Rashid has done pretty well over the last few years, he hasn’t really reached the levels people would have wanted him to or perhaps expected him to.
It’s vital that Crane is not overwhelmed by expectation. My former Surrey team-mate Chris Schofield was earmarked as the next big thing in the early 2000s but failed to deliver and ended up reinventing himself as a batsman.
Given how confident Crane appears to be, hopefully he won’t suffer the same fate and will continue to go from strength to strength.
Talking of England duty and the Champions Trophy, it was heartening to see Durham seamer Mark Wood on the field and performing after his latest ankle operation which ruled him out of England’s winter tour of India.
He played his second one-day match in a matter of days – the same North versus South showdown in which Crane starred – on Tuesday and took 2-38. If he’s fit, he should be in England’s squad.
The 27-year-old is their quickest bowler, capable of 90mph deliveries, and whenever he’s been put in an England shirt previously he’s always delivered. If he’s injury-free, he needs to be in that Champions Trophy party.