Not many would expect spinners to lead the charge when India and England cross swords in the high-profile five-match Test series in the United Kingdom in August. But former England spinner Graeme Swann believes his country is the best place to bowl for an off-spinner. He also thinks Ravichandran Ashwin could play a key role in India’s campaign.
“Ravi Ashwin should relish his chances in England,” Swann told reporters on the sidelines of promotional event for a collaboration between ESPN and Massive restaurants in Mumbai. “I had my best returns in England. A lot of the time because people don’t expect you to do much but we’ve seen over the years that spin bowling and England go hand-in-hand,” added Swann, who is considered to be one of England’s foremost spinners.
The 39-year-old reasoned that unlike Australia, England offers enough purchase for a spinner as the match progresses. He also said that Ashwin’s traditional bowling style make him a prime candidate to cause havoc through the English batting line-up.
“Ashwin sticks to the old-fashioned game-plan of land the ball in the same place every ball. Then your subtle variations come into it. In the long haul in the long game, that’s how you bowl in Test cricket,” added Swann, who has played 60 Tests for England and took 255 wickets at an average of 29.96.
The Englishman, however, cautioned the India star from relying heavily on variations, citing the Tamil Nadu bowler’s recent experiments with leg-spin.
“To be honest Ravi Ashwin should stick to his off-spin with his carrom ball,” said Swann. “In England, it’s not about variations, wickets are so slow, they generally don’t work. It’s about consistency. Wearing the batsman down and letting the pitch do your work,” he added.
‘Ashwin’s a brilliant bowler’
Ashwin, a former No 1 Test bowler, is one of the most experienced bowlers in India’s probables and is expected to be picked in the squad for the five-Test series. However, in recent months, the 30-year-old has fallen out of favour with the selectors at least in the limited-overs team. With wrist spinners performing well during India’s tour of South Africa, there is chance that the Indian team management might go for a fresh approach for the crucial series in England.
The off-spinner was used sparingly in the keenly-contested series in South Africa, which India lost by a 2-1 margin. Ashwin, along with fellow off-spinner Ravindra Jadeja, had proved ineffective during India’s Champions Trophy campaign in England last year that saw them lose to Pakistan in the final. The duo has since been replaced by wrist-spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal in the limited-overs teams.
Swann, though, isn’t entirely confident if wrist-spinners can make a telling impact in the series as he feels bowling in England requires an effectiveness that only a few players like Shane Warne, Abdul Qadir or Yasir Shah have got.
“The trick is that in England you’ve to get people on the front foot, because the wicket’s slightly slow, so as soon as you’re slightly short, you get murdered around the ground,” said Swann.
“Why Yasir did really well for Pakistan is that he bowled quick leg spin. He didn’t allow batsmen to go on the back-foot. So, if they heed the advice of Shah, [wrist spinners] could have a very good time,” he added.
Swann, instead, feels Ashwin holds all the necessary cards to produce a series-altering performance.
“In Test cricket, when you’ve got the last day of a game, and your team knows only wickets can win you the game, as a spinner then all the pressure is on you,” Swann said. “You get thrown the ball and [are] told to go and win the game. And if you’re just going to play T20 cricket, you’re no way going to know how to do it. You’re going to panic.
“Ashwin has got that. He’s done it time and time again in India. He has to do it a few times overseas to convince himself that he can do it. But, I know he can, he’s a brilliant bowler,” Swann added.