Bengaluru, Jan 19: Prior to the five-match Test series between India and England, the mindgames have begun.
There has not been almsot any effort in that direction from hosts India. Neithe the players, nor the coaching staff, or even former players have made any major predictions or statements to trigger fear/discussions in the rival team's camp.
But from England side, there seems to be a non-stop effort. It is a fcat that England have never won a Test series in India after 2012.
May be that is the reason, why so many former England players, experts and members of the Test squad too have started making big remarks. The purpose is simple to play mindgames before the Test series.
The latest to join that list is, yester-years spin-master Monty Panesar.
As per present Test team combination, it appears that veteran Jack Leach will be England's main spinner against India.
But Shoaib Bashir, a 20-year-old uncapped offspinner will be the one to keep an eye on, says Monty Panesar, who was part of the victorious 2012 England squad and backs England spinners to turn the tide in favour of the tourists.
In the bustling city of Hyderabad, anticipation hung thick in the air as the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium prepared to host the commencement of a riveting five-match Test series between cricket giants India and England on January 25. The stakes are high, especially considering India's 3-1 triumph when the two teams clashed in 2021.
Uncapped spinners Tom Hartley and Bashir have been named in England’s 16-member squad for a five-match Test tour of India starting next month. The off-spin duo joined fast-bowler Gus Atkinson as the three uncapped players at the Test level, though he and Hartley have been capped in white-ball cricket.
Bashir made his First-Class debut at 19 this year in June, facing a baptism of fire against Sir Alastair Cook at Chelmsford. Though he was wicketless on Day One for Somerset, his control and temperament impressed onlookers, including the England scouts.
Subsequent performances, like taking 10 wickets in six First-Class games, earned Bashir a call-up to England Lions’ recent training camp in the UAE, where Hartley was included too. Bashir took 10 wickets in the County Championship last season, though the trouble he caused experienced batters has outweighed the impact he had in the wicket column.
Monty Panesar, a key figure from the victorious 2012 England squad, buzzing with excitement – Shoaib Bashir, a 20-year-old uncapped offspinner. Panesar believes Bashir's young and diverse experience in county cricket would prove troublesome for Indian legends, especially Virat Kohli and Shubhman Gill, who share a penchant for driving the ball.
"I believe he (Shoaib Bashir) is the one whom we should have an eye on, and he will surely be a trouble for the Indian batters. The Indian red-soil turning track will be a dream pitch for him. I have met him a few times in England and watched him closely believe me, he has some exceptional talents. With his high-arm action, he will drag the batsman forward or will force them to cut with a slip and gully," Monty Panesar told IANS.
"He will be on the top against Virat Kohli and Shubhman Gill who have the same nature of play, They love to play drive the ball and that is where he (Bashir) will be a problem to them. With the same pitch, he can bring the ball back to wicket from outside off and also with attacking slip he will force them to do the error."
When asked how Bashir could be countered by the Indian batters, Panesar who was watching the India-Afghanistan third T2OI on television seemed highly impressed with Rohit Sharma's historic century, which saw India sealing the series 3-0.
“He (Rohit Sharma) is the one who will be very difficult to bowl. He is just fantastic with his wide range of hitting and shot selection in his mind. His ability to counter-attack on turning pitches will push the England bowlers on the back foot, so it will be very crucial for the pace bowlers to get rid of him early. I mean no one is better than Rohit when it’s about counterattack. We saw him batting in the ODI World Cup 2023, he just changed his game, and that saw India sailing to the finals.
“Virat on the home turf is a beast, he can change the course of the game with his exceptional batting talent but the problem with him is his aggression and getting carried away and England knowingly will try to provoke him. I think that is the other way to get rid of him," said Panesar.
As the discussion turned to India's spin arsenal, Panesar recognized the threat posed by Kuldeep Yadav, praising his unwavering belief in his deliveries. Yet, he maintained that England's batters, armed with extensive IPL experience, would be well-equipped to handle the challenges posed by Indian pitches.
According to Panesar, Bashir's high-arm action would force batsmen into challenging positions, creating opportunities for the English side. "They have immense experience of Indian pitches, I mean most of the players have. Joe Root and Ben Stokes have the experience of turning pitches and they are well favourable of it, So spinners won’t be of that trouble. The person who will worry them is Jasprit Bumrah, they should not take him easily. His unique action provides him the space where he just scares you and we have witnessed that in the last tour.
“Kuldeep Yadav is the other whom England should keep an eye on, no matter how vulnerable he is he always backs his delivery and belief in him. That is the attitude which I like about him. On the given day he will emerge as a curse for England and a game-changer for India,' he said. (With IANS Support)