Former England pacer Matthew Hoggard believes that England could struggle against the Indian spin attack in the upcoming Test series against India. Hoggard who enjoyed decent success in Tests in India during his days, taking 22 wickets from six Tests at a very good average of 23.31 spoke with The Times of India on England’s chances in the Test series and also the recent loss to Bangladesh.
“I fear England's struggles will continue,” he said. “It's going to be a very difficult tour for Cookie's [Alastair Cook] side. England are in for a stern test, particularly in terms of facing up to some high-quality spin bowling.”
Speaking of the England team’s loss to Bangladesh in the Mirpur Test, Hoggard said he believed that the defeat would not have an adverse effect on the minds of the English players. “I don't think there's any reason to think a poor result in Bangladesh - that ultimately came down to a disastrous single session - automatically means the players will suffer from a sense of inferiority,” he said.
Mental preparation is important
As one of the few players to have spoken out on depression, Hoggard said that the teammates and the coaching staff play a vital role in a series as demanding and energy-sapping as this one. He said, “We all make mistakes, bowling a loose one or whatever, but you mustn't dwell on it.” He further added, “The heat can be very energy-sapping and the slow pitches can punish you, but you have to stay confident and carry out your plans.”
Adding to the aspect of the mental preparations required, he further went on to say, “There's an important distinction to be made between being mentally tough on the cricket pitch and keeping your head right off it. You have to be resilient and deal with the conditions. In India as a bowler, patience is vital.”
Speaking of his personal experience of visiting the sub-continent, and the trials a fast bowler faces in these conditions, the former right-arm bowler said, “First and foremost, it's about being physically fit. You need to be up to the task and be physically able to bowl for long periods in unfamiliar heat.” He further added, “Long spells of bowling that offer little reward can be incredibly frustrating, so you have to remember that drying up the runs is an important part of Test cricket and that a batter's next mistake could be just around the corner.”
Saqlain Mushtaq’s presence will benefit England bowlers
England will be coming into this series with a very raw and inexperienced spin attack and will also be without the services of their lead bowler James Anderson. But Hoggard believes that the spin consultant of the England team, Saqlain Mushtaq, will be able to guide the likes of Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali.
He said, “England are always going to miss Anderson as he's been superb for us for a very long time. Whether or not Jimmy's playing, Saqlain Mushtaq is a fantastic resource for any Test bowler,” suggesting that the English spinners make full use of the experience and knowledge of Mushtaq.
Players to watch out for
When asked who among the Indian pace bowlers had impressed him the most, the 39-year old said, “I like Mohammed Shami. He moves it both ways, which always makes a bowler a threat, and he does so at decent pace. He's a very skillful bowler and our batters will have to be wary of him.”
There were words of praise for Umesh Yadav as well, with Hoggard praising the pacer’s raw pace and ability to make things happen.
Hoggard, who played 67 Test matches for England, singled out Ben Stokes as England’s main man for the upcoming Test matches. He said, “Ben Stokes is going to be important with the bat and ball. He's the kind of talisman we haven't perhaps seen since Freddie Flintoff and, if he has a good series, things often look good for England.”
He further went on to add that a lot will depend on captain Alastair Cook and premiere batsman Joe Root if England were to do well against India.