Jack Leach reflects on the ‘bad memories’ of England’s last tour of New Zealand in 2019
‘It was food poisoning but it turned into sepsis… I was put on a drip’: Three years ago Jack Leach’s England tour of New Zealand saw him fighting for his life in hospital, but now the spinner is a man reborn with ‘Bazball’ ‘having a positive effect’ on his health
- England are set to begin their two-Test series against New Zealand next week
- Jack Leach continues to shine and he took the most Test wickets in 2022 with 46
- On England’s last tour to New Zealand, Leach was taken seriously ill with Sepsis
Jack Leach was given a stark reminder on Tuesday of the ill-fortune that befell him the last time England played in New Zealand when he checked into the same Hamilton hotel where he was taken seriously ill three years ago.
This time, however, he is determined to carve out only positive memories from the latest two-Test stop on England’s extraordinary red-ball journey.
So sick did Leach, who suffers from Crohn’s disease, become after contracting sepsis on the eve of the drawn second Test here in 2019 that he feared for his life.
‘It was food poisoning but it turned into sepsis and because the medication I take for Crohn’s weakens my immune system it really attacked my body and I couldn’t fight it off,’ said Leach ahead of Wednesday’s tour opening warm-up game with a pink ball at Seddon Park.
‘I was on a drip in hospital and was having anti-biotics in the other arm. It slowly got worse and worse and went on for some time. Those bad memories came back when I walked into this hotel again today but that’s all in the past and I’m having too much fun to get sick again now!’
Jack Leach returned to New Zealand after being taken seriously ill with sepsis on the 2019 tour
Leach has been a key part of England’s extraordinary red ball journey over the past 12 months
The start to this last Test assignment of the winter epitomises that fun approach introduced by Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum, initially against New Zealand last summer, which appears to have done so much to revolutionise England’s Test fortunes.
They arrived in New Zealand last week and headed straight for the party capital of Queenstown where Kiwi McCullum wanted to host them for four days of leisure, mainly playing golf, while enjoying each other’s company as a team.
England then travelled to Mount Maunganui, venue of next week’s first day-night Test, for three days practice and arrived in Hamilton on Tuesday for what was meant to be the first of two two-day warm up games against local opposition.
Instead England will play just the first of those games Wednesday and Thursday and have cancelled the second in favour of a bit more practice and, probably, more golf. No naughty boy nets for this England team but, as whatever they are touching at the moment is turning to gold, with nine thrilling wins in 10 Tests, it can hardly be described as an approach that is letting them down.
‘I feel a very different person to the one I was the last time I came here but that is because of the environment I’ve been playing in,’ said left-arm spinner Leach.
‘My condition has been good too but Crohn’s can be stress-related so perhaps being more relaxed is having a positive effect on my health. Fingers crossed it stays that way.’
‘Bazball’ has certainly been good for Leach’s health within this England team. He played in every Test last year and took 46 wickets, more than anyone else in Test cricket in the calendar year, with Stokes providing him with the confidence that had been lacking in his game and turning him into a valued member of the side.
Not even the emergence of leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed, who became at 18 the youngest bowler in Test history to take a five-wicket haul on debut in the last of the three historic victories in Pakistan before Christmas, has stopped Leach being the No 1 spinner here.
He has kept his place as England’s No 1 spinner, despite the emergence of Rehan Ahmed (left)
The 31-year-old insisted he has relished having the backing of England captain Ben Stokes
‘It has been probably the most important thing for me, that backing and the feeling that I belong here,’ said Leach.
‘I know at some point someone else may come along who’s better than me and will take my place.
‘That will be absolutely fair enough so in the meantime I’m just trying to enjoy it as much I can and do as well as I can for the team. I view things slightly differently now. I’m relishing how much fun it is to win games and I want to contribute to us winning those games.’