It seems that a growing cloud of pessimism will be following the England team right throughout their 5-Test series in India. Erstwhile off-spinner Graeme Swann, who played an instrumental role in their unexpected 2-1 victory during the 2012 series on Indian soil, has ruled out any chance of a possible repeat whilst fearing for the visitors’ fortunes this time around.
During the launch of BT Sport's cricket coverage, the 37-year old blamed England for treating their spinners as ‘third-class citizens’ and believed that they will struggle on subcontinental pitches unless this attitude is changed.
Swann claimed, “We don't take spin seriously in this country and then bemoan the fact that we haven't got world-class spinners when we go to the subcontinent. We've got a bloody good team with bloody good cricketers but we will lose in India because of what has happened 20 years before. We are hamstrung by the fact that we treat spinners as third-class citizens.”
He gave a warning shot to his batsmen by alluding, “I don't think we've got a cat in hell's chance seeing how (Ravichandran) Ashwin and (Ravindra) Jadeja bowl. Jadeja doesn't spin the ball, he doesn't try to. He just bowls straight and lets Ashwin do the work. Ashwin isn't a massive turner of the ball. He rarely bowls his carrom ball, but he's very, very accurate. Every Test in India he goes into, he believes he's going to win it.”
England’s recent form has been quite patchy with a 2-2 draw against Pakistan at home followed by a 1-1 draw in Bangladesh. Alastair Cook’s side managed to narrowly win the opening Test at Chittagong before losing the second Test in Dhaka. The 108-run loss was their first Test defeat at the hands of Bangladesh who are currently ranked ninth in the ICC rankings.
On the other hand, India are the number one ranked team and on a hot streak of winning their previous four Test series as well as emerging victorious in twelve of their last thirteen home Tests. Interestingly, England have been the only side to defeat them in a series on Indian soil over the last twelve years or so. Swann himself ended up as the leading wicket-taker across both sides (joint most with Pragyan Ojha) in the 2012 series.
The off-spiner, who mostly relied on flight and loop, pointed to the current England side’s struggles against the turning ball. After succumbing to the wiles of Yasir Shah at Lord’s and The Oval, they could not handle the 19-year old Mehedi Hasan Miraz in Bangladesh.
Swann noted, “There is no sort of system in place to provide the backing that spinners need (in England). From the day they arrive in county cricket to the day they play in Tests, it's not there. It is for batting, for bowlers, for fielding, for fitness, for nutrition but not for spin bowling. And because of that, we are bad players of spin. It's a whole melting pot.”
England will kick start their 5-Test series against India at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Rajkot from November 9.