While England have been sweating on the fitness of their spearhead James Anderson ahead of a grueling 5-Test series, former India skipper Sourav Ganguly has declared that the 34-year old seamer should not be picked even if he regains full fitness.
Speaking to ESPNCricinfo, the ‘Prince of Calcutta’ expressed his views on England’s team composition and believed that Anderson’s advancing age has translated into a loss in pace which might not be enough to help him extract reverse swing on Indian pitches.
Ganguly felt, “I wouldn't play him (Anderson) in India to be honest. It's not the same Anderson as 2012 (when England won the Test series in India 2-1). I saw him in the Test series in England recently. He has lost a bit of pace. And I think Stuart Broad and Steven Finn and Ben Stokes (should play) because you will need a bit of pace in these conditions to get that ball to reverse. So, I don't know whether he will make the side when he comes back. Not in Vizag where the ball will turn square.”
He reasoned, “I don't see him playing in the second Test. And if I were the England captain, I would go in with two fast bowlers – Broad and Stokes (along with Chris Woakes). And play three spinners – Moeen Ali, Gareth Batty and another spinner. The advantage is, Moeen, Stokes and Woakes can get runs with the bat. It makes the batting a lot longer and you still have three spinners for these conditions. That's the way I will go and I don't think Jimmy Anderson bowling at 80 miles an hour will find a place in my side.”
Following intense deliberations surrounding his rehabilitation from a shoulder injury, Anderson was later cleared to join the England squad in India ahead of the first Test at Rajkot which starts on the 9th. However, he will not be available for selection for the series opener and could be brought into consideration for the second Test at Vizag which begins on the 17th. The veteran’s previous appearance had come against Pakistan at The Oval during August.
Even though conditions in India are expected to be drastically different from those in England where he has carved a menacing reputation for himself, both skipper Alastair Cook as well as head coach Trevor Bayliss welcomed the prospect of having their all-time leading wicket-taker back. Anderson was the only pacer to play all four Tests in the 2012 series which yielded him 12 wickets at an average of 30.25.
‘England have to do something absolutely magical’
Statistics might not fully reveal Anderson’s contribution to England’s cause as his stellar spells with the old ball often broke India’s back during that series. Instead, Ganguly singled out off-spinner Moeen Ali as a possible threat for the hosts this time around.
The elegant southpaw affirmed, “He (Moeen) is definitely a threat for India. The wickets will spin. His confidence against India will be high as a bowler. He has definitely become a better batsman than since that trip of 2014 (in England) when he was peppered with short deliveries from Ishant Sharma and the Indian bowlers. He has definitely become a better cricketer than then. He will be tested. He needs to get runs and get wickets as well, but do they have a Graeme Swann or Monty Panesar? I don't think so.”
He added, “It's going to be very, very tough for England. That's what I believe. But in sport, anything can happen. They will have to play very, very well to get past India in this series. Not just play very, very well, (they have to) do something absolutely magical.“
India are currently the top ranked team in the world and lead fourth-placed England by ten points. The 5-match series will also see the Decision Review System (DRS) being used by the hosts in Tests after more than five years.