New Delhi, Jan 22: Former captain Nasser Hussain believes England will need to take smart risks against India during the upcoming five-match Test series starting on January 25, while adding that the batters need to go big on the scoring front and read the conditions correctly.
England last won a Test series in India 12 years ago, where Alastair Cook was the captain and spinners Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar, along with Kevin Pietersen played leading roles in the 2-1 triumph. In the 2021 tour, England had won the opening Test in Chennai, but lost next three games to lose the series 3-1.
“The risk-taking has to be smart, as it was in the Ashes last summer after England had been bounced out at Lord’s and in the first innings at Headingley. They still smashed it around, but realised it was not in their best interests to try to hook everything.”
“If an England batter gets in during this series, he simply has to go big. Look at that 2012 series and the runs made, in particular by Cook and Kevin Pietersen. India is a very hard place to start an innings, so once you are in, you must not throw it away,” wrote Hussain in his column for Daily Mail on Monday.
He also advised Ben Stokes & Co to be mindful of their selection strategies in India and preferred to have Ben Foakes as the wicketkeeper-batter. “England have to be smart with selection, too. Stokes not being able to bowl makes it hard to balance the side, but if it does spin big, I’d play Ben Foakes, particularly now Brook is missing and England can fit in both Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow as specialist batters, because you need your best keeper when the ball is turning sharply.”
“That makes it a little easier to balance the side, with Foakes at seven and an attack of two seamers and two spinners backed up by Root as the fifth bowler. But if the pitches are flatter than most are expecting, I would not rule out giving Bairstow the gloves and playing an extra bowler. Most of all, England should not go in with any pre-conceptions.”
Hussain also urged England to learn from previous mistakes on their last tour of India and read the conditions to perfection, thus eliminating the need to make any excuses. “Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum have risen to every challenge since they took over England’s Test side and have answered all the questions they have faced. They could do it again now and make history of their own with their biggest win yet.”
“To do that, with whatever their mode of cricket is now, they will still have to do the basics right. That includes reading the conditions correctly. Last time England were in India three years ago they did not do that, most notably when they played an extra seamer in the pink ball Test in Ahmedabad and it turned square. Axar Patel took 11 wickets in the match and even Joe Root took five for eight!”
“It will be very important, too, for England not to have any sort of excuse culture. If it does spin big like it did last time — certainly after England won the first Test — it will be the same for both sides. There can be no muttering about it being unfair or not good for Test cricket.”
“I played with cricketers such as Graham Gooch, Mark Waugh and Stuart Law who played more shots the more the ball spun, knowing that at some stage there would be a ball with their name on it, and that policy may well be repeated by this England side. But again, it is about balance.”
“Stokes and Root, in particular, have a really good defensive technique against spin, so they should not be so keen to attack that they become reckless. Yes, back yourself to put the bowlers under pressure, but make sure you survive that first half an hour, when there are men around the bat and pressure is intense,” he concluded.
The upcoming series between India and England will begin at Hyderabad on January 25, followed by other matches at Visakhapatnam (February 2-6), Rajkot (February 15-19), Ranchi (February 23-27) and Dharamshala (March 7-11).
“I do like the way they do what they think is best for the team and don’t worry about what it looks like to the wider world should it go wrong. India’s supporters have heard a lot about Bazball and they have been waiting for England to show up to see what all the fuss is about.”
“This will be the coming together of England’s new methods and a great India side doing it their way. People have questioned Bazball all the way through, but it has worked against every opponent up to now.’
“As long as England remember to be smart, they can win in India, but if they are just gung-ho and say, ‘This is the way we play’, I don’t think they will. India are hot favourites. The stats make that inevitable. But whatever happens, it will be fascinating to watch,” concluded Hussain. (IANS)