Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Graeme Swann explains how England are producing test-class spinners out of nowhere

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With the arguable exception of Derek Underwood, Graeme Swann is the best English spin bowler of my lifetime. And, a decade after he retired from cricket, the England set up has finally decided it might be a good idea to draw upon his expertise and experience.

In an interview with cricket.com, Swann explains how England have apparently been able to produce two test-class spinners out of nowhere this winter in the shape of Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir:

Numbers-wise, there were a lot of ‘better’ candidates, but according to Swann, the management were clear about the fact that they wanted to look beyond raw numbers.

“We were looking for specific attributes - people who can bowl straight, people who can bowl on turning pitches, people who can generate bounce,” Swann explains England’s selection process.

“County cricket is very, very different to Test cricket in India. And it’s not like we’ve had spinners who were knocking the door down in County cricket.

“It’s not always the people who average well. Averages hide all sorts of things. We didn’t pay too much attention to averages; we were (and still are) after match-winners.”

Swann reveals that multiple spinners, including Parkinson (Callum) and Carson were in contention to make the squad for the India series, but Hartley and Bashir got the nod due to their ability to consistently bring the stumps into play.

“Hartley and Bashir, the reason they ended up on the (India) tour was because they were the two best at what we were after. We were after bowlers that could bowl very straight; bring the stumps into play as often as possible,” Swann reveals. 

Swann also talks about the need for the authorities to learn to tolerate spin-friendly pitches in English domestic cricket:

“We’ve got a massive issue at the moment, in my point of view, wherein spinning pitches in England are still frowned upon,” Swann says.

“You still get docked points if a ball turns excessively on Day 1. I can tell you now, that’s nonsense. If we want to be the best in the world at bowling spin and playing spin, we’ve got to get used to it. 

“The Hyderabad Test pitch (which we saw in the first Test), that would have been docked points back in England. In the end, we actually ended up getting a brilliant Test match.

“Rather than docking points for preparing turning pitches, the players should learn to bat and bowl on them.”

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