Bleak future beckons for England’s weak tweakers
MUMBAI – England’s humiliating series defeat in India painfully exposed an alarming paucity in the side’s slow bowling options and drove home the fact they will continue to struggle in South Asia until they unearth some world class spinners.
Retired off-spinner Graeme Swann had bemoaned England’s indifferent approach towards slow bowling before the five-match series started and his fears were confirmed after the touring side were handed a 4-0 drubbing.
The alarm bells would have been ringing when England’s spinners were out-bowled in Bangladesh in October, where the side lost their first ever test against the hosts in a series regarded by many as an appetiser for the Indian leg of the trip.
That 1-1 drawn series did little to prepare England’s batsmen for the main course as India’s spin duo of Ravichandran Ashwin, the world’s top-ranked test bowler, and Ravindra Jadeja helped themselves to 54 wickets.
By comparison, England’s main spinners Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali combined for 33 wickets, and the other four slow bowlers used on the tour — Zafar Ansari, Liam Dawson, Gareth Batty and part-timer Joe Root — only claimed seven more between them.
“I think everyone can see we are suited to playing in seaming conditions,” Cook said. “There’s no point hiding behind that fact.
“These conditions have tested us to our limits and I really don’t want to be disrespectful to Mo and Adil but they are not as good as Ashwin and Jadeja yet.
“They haven’t quite got the control and consistency, certainly in the first innings when there’s not much happening.”
On their last trip to India in 2012, Swann and his left-arm spin colleague Monty Panesar took more wickets than the hosts’ two leading spinners of Pragyan Ojha and Ashwin and that translated into a 2-1 series victory for England.
Cook would have hoped his spinners could turn the screw on India after the touring side made first innings totals of 400 and 477 in Mumbai and Chennai, but England barely threatened with the ball and lost both matches by more than an innings.
The captain accepted their current resources were lacking and pleaded for a full-time spin bowling coach for a side who only had former Pakistan off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq with them as a consultant until the third test in Mohali.
James Anderson, England’s most prolific wicket-taker, had taken 12 wickets in the four tests in 2012, prompting then India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to dub the seamer as the difference between the sides.
However, the injury-hampered 34-year-old went wicketless in Mohali and Mumbai and was a huge letdown for the England attack.
The tourists were also let down by some bizarre selection choices during the series.
England picked Batty as an extra slow bowler on a Mohali strip known to be one of the country’s least spin-friendly wickets, while the tourists opted for an extra seamer in Mumbai, where Indian spinners bagged 19 out of their 20 wickets. -Reuters