India have spinners like Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar and Axar Patel in their squad
Ahead of the four-match Test series against India, England assistant batting coach Graham Thorpe said that the hosts’ bowling is not just about spinners as they also have a strong pace attack.
Most of the English players have struggled against spin on the Indian sub-continent and India does have impressive spinners with the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar and Axar Patel in their squad. But Thorpe believes that hosts’ bowling attack as a whole is “very good”. “The one thing about the Indian bowling attack is, it’s not just about spin. I suppose their seam attack is also strong and so from that point of view, it’s not to just get side-tracked completely into the spin side of things as well. Yes, it will be important no doubt about that,” Thorpe said in a virtual press conference.
“Indian bowling has developed into a very good attack and we are very aware of that. When you come to the sub-continent you will have to deal with spin. More so with the Indian attack, we are aware. The training time (three days) will be used to strike a fine balance practicing both,” he added.
The batting coach added that the visitors will stick to their ‘best ball’ against the India skipper Virat Kohli as he is a ‘fantastic player’.
“We know that he is a fantastic player and he has shown that for many years now. Virat is in one of that batting orders which understands home conditions very well,” Thorpe said.
“The key for our bowling attack will be to bowl our best ball as often as we can. I don’t think we can ask for anything more from our spinners and seamers. We need to have runs on the board and then having the Indian batting order under pressure will really be the key for us. To take the game deep will be an important aspect for England,” he added.
England skipper Joe Root will be playing his 100th Test match when they meet India in the first Test of the series. Thorpe said root is a great student of the game who is focused on scoring more runs and improving his game.
India and England are set to lock horns in four Tests, three ODIs, and five T20Is. The first two games of the 4-game series will be played in Chennai before the cricketers move to Ahmedabad for the third and fourth Test.
Where is Bairstow?
England’s assistant batting coach Graham Thorpe said on Friday that Jonny Bairstow will join the squad after the first Test against India, but the official England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) media team later confirmed that the plan is still for the batsman to return for the third and fourth Test.
The England selectors and team management faced huge criticism for resting the batsman for the first two Tests against India, which will be played in Chennai. Thorpe defended the team’s decision to rest Bairstow for the first two Tests given the bio-bubble situation forced by the coronavirus pandemic. “Every individual case is different. They are managing the amount of time in the environment. The T20 World Cup, which is coming up, got the IPL tournament as well where players gain a lot of experience. I suppose Jonny is on a white-ball contract at the moment as well but he is coming back in after the first Test back into the squad,” Thorpe said in the virtual press conference.
But the ECB media team later sent out a message saying: “To clarify, the plan is still for Jonny Bairstow to return for the third and fourth Test and not the second Test. Along with Sam Curran and Mark Wood.”
Former England captain Michael Vaughan had lashed out at England selectors for resting Bairstow as he ‘plays spin well’. “Surely @jbairstow21 stays with the Test team for the start of the #India series … makes no sense that a player who has only just got his Test place back & plays spin is well is resting !!!! #SLvENG !!#OnOn,” Vaughan had tweeted.
Earlier, Vaughan had tweeted, “The only player in England’s Top 3 that’s playing the sub-continent conditions with any control or calmness is resting for the first 2 Tests against the best Team in world at home #India !!! The world is officially mad … #SLvENG.”
Thorpe added that facing India at home will be a “real challenge” for the English team.
“India at home is a real challenge. They are playing good cricket, they have been very strong at home and they are coming at the back of the win against Australia as well. For us, it presents a real challenge. We have got some players who have not toured here and it will be learning for them,” he said.
The Bumrah Factor
England opening batsman Rory Burns on Thursday said that India pacer Jasprit Bumrah is a hard bowler to plan against, looking at the angle he bowls with.
India and England are set to lock horns in four Tests, three ODIs, and five T20Is. The first two games of the 4-game series will be played in Chennai before the cricketers move to Ahmedabad for the third and fourth Test. “Bumrah is quite a hard man to prepare for, isn’t he? He is obviously unique in terms of how he comes and bowls. It would just be about working those angles. I saw the recent series between India and Australia and they are in a pretty handy form, not necessarily their first playing XI at different points, but still, they managed to get over the line, it is just going to be a big challenge in their own conditions, looking forward to it,” said Burns during a virtual press conference on Thursday.
Burns also said that the spin duo of Dom Bess and Jack Leach should not be putting any expectations on themselves to perform in the India series, rather they should just aim to perform to the best of their ability. The opening batsman also added that the pitches in India might be a little pace friendly looking at the likes of Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, and Mohammed Siraj.
“I do not think Dom Bess and Jack Leach would be putting any expectations on themselves. They would go about their business, they were fortunate to be bowling in Sri Lanka which got them into their groove, it’s just about switching their skills, I think they both have been here on different tours, they have some experience in that aspect, I do not think they should be putting any expectations on themselves. The pitches might be a little seam friendly early on looking at India’s seam attack, day-night Test is also there, so pitch might be a little different,” said Burns.
England’s touring contingent arrived in Chennai on Wednesday and all the members are undergoing quarantine. Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, and Rory Burns arrived earlier as the trio did not play the Test series against Sri Lanka.
England defeated Sri Lanka in the two-match Test series this month. Skipper Joe Root was in impeccable form as he registered a double-century in the first Test, and then he followed it up with a 186-run knock in the second Test.
“Root obviously leads from the front, you have seen that in the Test series against Sri Lanka, it was incredible to see him go about his business. He is a leader by example, in terms of how he captains the team, he is an easy bloke to follow,” said Burns.
Virat getting ready
Meanwhile, India skipper Virat Kohli is making sure that he makes the most of the quarantine period ahead of the opening Test against England at the MA Chidambaram Stadium from February 5. Both the teams are undergoing a six-day quarantine period and will start training for the first game from Tuesday.
Kohli on Friday shared a short clip giving fans a glimpse of how he is making the most of his time inside his hotel room. “PropheC music and gym equipment is all you need during quarantine days. Work can be put in anywhere if you really want to. have a great day everyone,” Kohli captioned the post on Instagram.
Not only Kohli, Mayank Agarwal too is toiling hard in his hotel room to get into the groove. The right-handed batsman on Friday shared photos on his Instagram stories in which he is seen working out ahead of the series.
For India, Ishant Sharma, who had missed the Tests against Australia has made his way back into the squad on the back of some quality performance in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
Spinner Axar Patel has also made his way into the Test squad for the first two matches while T Natarajan who played his debut Test against Australia at The Gabba has not been included for the England Tests.
India’s squad for first two Tests against England
Virat Kohli (c), Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Wriddhiman Saha, Hardik Pandya, KL Rahul (subject to fitness), Rishabh Pant, Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Ravi Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel.