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“England should match India or go past them in the first innings” - Graeme Swann

Joe Root holds the key for England, says Graeme Swann
Joe Root holds the key for England, says Graeme Swann

Graeme Swann has admitted that matching India’s first innings score will be crucial if England want to beat Virat Kohli's team at home. The former English off-spinner also stressed on Joe Root’s role when it comes to scorings runs on Indian soil.

India and England will take on each other in a four-match Test series, with the first game starting from February 5. The visitors, who suffered an embarrassing 4-0 loss the last time they toured India in 2016, will look to avenge that defeat in the upcoming series.

In a chat with the Times of India, Graeme Swann discussed how England can beat India at home.

“In India, even if the wicket turns in the second innings, it's very good for batting in the first. England should match India or go past them in the first innings and then take it from there,” Swann said.

England have played a total of 60 Tests in India, winning just 13 of them. While the hosts have won 19 matches, 28 encounters have ended in draws. Addressing England’s chances in the upcoming series, Graeme Swann claimed that skipper Joe Root will play a crucial role if the visitors want to post big first innings totals.

“England will depend on skipper Joe Root to do the bulk of the scoring. If they can pile on the runs in the first innings and then restrict India, then England could be in with a chance,” Swann added.

Looking at how the India-England series unfolded last time, Graeme Swann’s advice isn’t too far off the mark. The only time England didn’t lose a Test match in 2016 was when they came close to India’s first innings total. That was in the first Test, when they took a slender lead of 49 runs. In all the other instances, the gap was upwards of 130 and the visitors went on to lose all those games.

Graeme Swann’s take on the England squad

Much has been said about England’s squad for the first two Tests against India. With players like Jonny Bairstow and Sam Curran left out of the side as the board sticks by its rotation policy, former cricketers have accused England of not playing their strongest 11 against India.

Graeme Swann echoed similar sentiments, admitting he couldn’t understand Bairstow’s exclusion from the side.

“It's bizarre that he has not been picked for the first two Tests. He is being rested which, in my view, is just crazy. You don't rest world-class batsmen like Bairstow,” Swann added.

Jack Leach and Dominic Bess, who picked 22 wickets between them in the two Tests in Sri Lanka, are expected to play a key role in the upcoming series too. But Graeme Swann warned that bowling in India is a completely different challenge.

“In Sri Lanka, they bowled well and that will give them confidence. Leach bowled better and had good control. Bess is still a work in progress. They will have to bowl with more consistency to keep the Indian batsmen in check,” Swann concluded.

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Edited by Samya Majumdar
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