Mumbai: Former England off-spinner Graeme Swann has thrown his weight behind R Ashwin, saying if India had to pick a solitary spinner in the playing XI, during the upcoming Test series on the English soil, it had to be the Tamil Nadu tweaker.
While Ashwin continues to be India’s premier spin-bowling option in the longer format of the game, when playing in the subcontinent, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have replaced him and Ravindra Jadeja in India’s limited-overs sides following the duo’s poor show in the ICC Champions Trophy final against Pakistan last year.
Hence, to push his way back into the Indian side, Ashwin has added a leg-spin variation to his bowling arsenal. While Ashwin’s move has received mixed reactions in the cricketing fraternity, Swann made it clear that if he was Indian captain and had to pick only one spinner in the team, it will be Ashwin but with one condition – without bowling leg-spin.
“I will pick, Ravi Ashwin. Experience counts for everything. He has done it. I will take him aside and I would say, “Look, stop trying to do your leg-spin, bowl off-spin.” If he can do it in India, he can do it anywhere,” said Swann on Wednesday during an ESPNcricinfo event in Mumbai.
While Ashwin enjoys a stellar record, playing in the subcontinent – 263 wickets in 42 Tests, which included 24 five-wicket hauls, he has struggled with the ball in other parts of the world, having scalped just 48 wickets in 15 Tests,
When asked whether we will get to see Ashwin succeed in England, considering he has not enjoyed much success outside the subcontinent, Swann said: “Actually, England is, I always thought the best place to bowl off-spin. I don’t know what India thinks would be. The thing with India is, it’s so hot, and you have to bowl long spells and you get sweaty and tired, but in England the temperature never fights you. You’re always fresh throughout the day. And the wickets do spin, not necessarily on Day One and Two but as the game goes on and it gets dry and dusty, they spin later on. Especially at Edgbaston, Lords, Trent Bridge.”
“And I think, he (Ashwin) should relish his chances in England. I had my best returns in England. A lot of the time because people don’t expect you to do much, but we’ve seen over the years that spin bowling and England go hand-in-hand. I think the one place where finger spin doesn’t really work is Australia because the wicket is so good and their players are very good when the ball’s not spinning. They’re very bad when the ball spins so when Australia come to India, Ashwin absolutely bowls through the Aussies. No problem. So, I think he’ll enjoy England. You got to go in a very positive mindset. In India you’ve got more than one spinner, so… I think it’s going to be a great series despite England not having a confident spinner at the moment. I think it’s a massive fillip for India,” added Swann.
Swann was also optimistic about Indian wristspinners doing well in England, he cited Yasir Shah’s example. The Pakistani leggie was pivotal to Misbah-ul-Haq-led side’s Test success in England in 2016, claiming 19 wickets in 4 Tests.
"Wrist spinners can do well in England. Yasir Shah did well for Pakistan last year. So, the English players don’t tend to bowl wrist spin or pick it very well. If they’re fit and they’re picked and bowled, they could do very well. The trick is that in England you’ve to get people on the front foot, because the wicket’s slightly slow, so as soon as you’re slightly short, you get murdered around the ground," said Swann.
"Why Yasir did really well for Pakistan is that he bowled quick leg spin..didn’t allow batsmen to go on the backfoot. So, if they heed the advice of Shah, they could have a very good time," he added.