CHENNAI: On England’s previous tours of India, the game-plans of the English batsmen have primarily revolved around how to counter India’s spinners in alien, spin-friendly conditions. With India’s growing battery of pace bowlers high on confidence, however, the upcoming series is unlikely to be just about R Ashwin & Co spinning a web around the England batsmen.
The pacers – which include Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Siraj and Shardul Thakur for the first two Tests – are equally capable of prising out English wickets on Indian pitches. The England camp seems acutely aware of the evolving dynamic in the Indian attack.
“The one thing about the Indian bowling attack is that it’s not just about spin. Their seam attack is also strong. We can’t be side-tracked completely and focus just on the spin side of things,” England’s assistant coach Graham Thorpe told reporters on Friday.
During India’s last home season against South Africa and Bangladesh in 2019, the Indian pacers took 59 wickets in five Tests in comparison to 37 scalps by the spinners.
The England players, of course, would have watched how the likes of Bumrah and Siraj operated in Australia and been hugely impressed by what they witnessed. The pacers bowled a straighter line to Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne in particular, and tried to take run-scoring on the off-side out of the equation. They can be expected to adopt similar ploys in familiar home conditions.
“India’s attack has developed into a very good attack. We are very aware of that. When we come to the subcontinent, we know we have to deal with spin. But with the Indian attack, we know that seam bowling is in play as well. In the training time that we have, we will be trying to find a nice balance between practising against both seamers and spinners,” the former England left-hander, who played 100 Tests, observed.
Notably, India don’t even have Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav available for the first two Tests due to injury. They are arguably two of the finer exponents of reverse swing in this Indian attack, but the fact that the team isn’t fretting about the absentees is a reflection of the resources available. England have the Ashes in Australia later this year, but there seemed to be an acknowledgement from Thorpe that the Indian series was a bigger challenge.
“Yes, there is a hell of a lot of hard cricket ahead of us. We are under no illusions about that. When you get to the highest level, this is the kind of series that you want to test yourself in. That’s how I will sum it up,” Thorpe noted.