BT Sport cricket expert Graeme Swann talks to The Cricket Paper’s Joshua Peck about spin bowling and the Indian tour
THESE are difficult times at the minute for English spin bowling aren’t they?
Graeme Swann: It is a little bit but I have the same argument every time – we just don’t take spin bowling seriously in this country. Then we bemoan that we don’t have any world-class spinners every time we go to the Sub-continent.
We don’t have a full-time spin coach, and we don’t have any sort of system in place to provide the backing the spinners need. It’s there for seam bowling, it’s there for fielding, it’s there for nutrition, it’s not for spin bowling so we shoot ourselves in the foot.
Because of that we are bad players of spin as well so it’s a whole melting pot.
We will lose in India because of what’s happened 20 years before. We’ve got a bloody good team of good cricketers but they’re hamstrung by the fact that England cricket still treats spin as a third-class citizen.
It’s interesting what you say about lack of spin coach because in this day and age, there is a coach for everything. But to go to the Sub-continent without a permanent spin coach is not great.
GS: When I played we had Mushy [Mushtaq Ahmed] who was a brilliant spin coach, not necessarily technically, but brilliant with the mental side. The issue was that he only did about 40 days a year.
We would go on tour, he’d be there for a couple of weeks then I’d turn up for the second Test and he’d have gone home. I’d look round and the fielding coach would still be there, the nutritionalist and the psychologist, too. I know there’s only one of me, or sometimes two, but it’s f****** stupid. I’ve always bemoaned that and until we take it seriously, we just have to accept that when we play in the Sub-continent, we will be shown up.
While it’s easy to criticise the bowlers, the batsmen also didn’t come up to the mark in Bangladesh.
GS: They’ve not played against good spin bowlers. You can’t blame the batsmen in any shape or form. They’ve been brought through a system that’s inadequate for producing spin and that effects everyone.
The one lad who did get wickets, Jack Leach at Somerset, I can’t understand why he wasn’t picked to tour. People muwere saying he did it on turning pitches, I was flabbergasted! If you get 60 wickets on green seamers, people don’t say ‘no, it’s a green seamer’. If he can bowl and get wickets on turning wickets then he’s a good bowler. Where are we going? Bangladesh and India. What do the wickets do? They f****** spin!
We have a problem in England of not enough people playing cricket anyway, but if you can’t get people excited, which spin does, then we have even more of a problem?
GS: Spin is cool – it’s the coolest thing to do in cricket. You get to field at slip, bat at eight and bowl spin, it’s ace. You wear Oakleys, your collar is done up, you look amazing. Everyone wants to be you and every woman wants to be with you, it’s awesome!
Moving on to India, you say we have no chance?
GS: We haven’t got a cat in hell’s chance. Having seen how we’ve played the spinners and going to face Ashwin and Jadeja has me fearing. Ashwin isn’t a massive turner of the ball, he’s just very accurate and he’s a good batsman, too. Every Test match he goes into in India, he believes he will win it. He doesn’t overseas, and that’s why his record overseas is poor.
Moeen Ali, when he first played for England in that series against India, he won three of the Test matches. I spoke to him that winter, when he was struggling for confidence, and the first thing he said was: “I know it’s going to be more difficult next year; I know I got lucky.”
That’s the perception in England, that people know you so it will be more difficult. It’s the biggest crock of s*** I’ve ever heard.
A ball that gets you a wicket in year one, will get you a wicket in year two, year three, year four, year five.
You were obviously fairly successful with DRS. How big is it that that is in the India series?
GS: It’s been a matter of time and it’s good. Some of the funniest times in my career were when Indian players were on the bad end of dismissals. I remember Suresh Raina getting a howler at the Oval. He was given out LBW, we thought it was absolutely plumb.
The big screen showed the replay, and we found it hilarious. Raina was pleading for DRS, it was a disgusting decision, but we were just saying: “It’s your team, mate.” It was the biggest inside edge, the ball had a splinter in it when it came back!
It’s brilliant that they’re doing extra width of the ball, too, because it doesn’t take 50 per cent of the ball to knock a bail off. If it’s hitting the stumps, it’s hitting the stumps. Deal with it batsmen, the game is all yours anyway!
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This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, November 4 2016
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