A fresh start
By Alex Smith
Two and a half years after his last international experience, Mason Crane is ready to unleash ‘Mason Crane 2.0’ on world cricket.
The leg spinner was viewed as a prodigious talent when he made his England T20 debut against South Africa in June 2017 aged 20. A further white-ball appearance and an Ashes Test cap followed in the next seven months.
It appeared to be the beginning of a burgeoning England career but a fractured back in March 2018, and a number of relapses, have resulted in Crane being sidelined.
However, following a promising campaign with Hampshire last season, and a winter with the England Lions, Crane earned a spot in the 55-man training squad ahead of this summer’s international schedule.
“It is a really big thing for me,” Crane said.
“Yes, it is an enormous squad, and it is only training at the moment, but it is really nice to know I’m still in the picture and still involved especially after all this time.
“You could look at the first three and a half years of my career and I was really young and before I knew what an injury was.
“I guess now that I have grown up a bit and had to deal with some injuries it is kind of a part two; it is a fresh start. Hopefully in this section I get to play a bit more.”
You can’t accuse Crane of sitting back and expecting England to dial his number again.
Whether he pumped his body with pain-killing injections to get through a Lord’s final two years ago, or spent the past winter jetting from a T10 competition in Abu Dhabi to a three-week camp in India, he chalked up some impressive figures with the Lions in Australia.
“It [the call-up] proves to me that my hard work over the winter didn’t go unnoticed,” Crane said.
“There have been countless ups and downs and it has been a long, long time, but to get to this point I am quite proud of myself for fighting back from where I have been.
“Hopefully I will get another call and get into a squad but even if I don’t, I can still be proud of my achievement.”
Spin bowling in England is regularly accused of being on the funeral pyre, with pundits claiming a dearth of the craft in county cricket.
But Crane is quick to counter that theory and points to the incredible depth of quality in the latest squad – which saw eight twirlers named, including Hampshire teammate Liam Dawson.
“I see all the time that people say that spin is a problem in this country, but I don’t think it is,” Crane argued.
“You look at the bowlers who are involved, they are all wonderful bowlers which is really healthy.
“Hopefully we can drive each other on. Being able to spend a bit more time with really good spinners is something that improves you.”
Such competition could be viewed as a negative for Crane’s ambitions, but the 23-year-old doesn’t see it as a rivalry.
He said: “I don’t rank myself among the other spinners, it is irrelevant really and depends on what the selectors and the guys higher up are thinking.
“I am taking the view at the moment that I am happy to be here. I want to work hard and I’m excited to play some cricket this year as I feel like I’m finally moving in the direction I want to move in.
“When I bowl as well as I know I can I’d like to think I was up there, but that is something for me to prove day in and day out whatever the environment I find myself in.”
That mountain of talent isn’t just confined to spin bowling, and meant that Hampshire batsman Sam Northeast was a surprising omission from the training squad – despite his 969 Specsavers County Championship runs last summer.
Crane said: “I did think that Sam would be involved and it is a shame for him as he has scored a lot of runs.
“It is a tough one though as Sam is a wonderful player, but you look at the 55 and you think they are all brilliant players – there are no bad players and there’s some good ones left out.
“I feel for him and I hope he can continue what he has been doing and get himself into a position where he can force his way into an England side.”