Dubai: The England cricket team will be facing a severe test of their skills against the Indian spin-quartet during the five-match Test series, beginning in Hyderabad on January 25.
Skipper Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum have opted against warm-up matches for much of their reign and instead have decided to prepare in Abu Dhabi and are scheduled to travel just three days before the start of the first Test. The Lions, under McCullum, have been playing the aggressive form of ‘Bazball’ cricket, steamrollering their rivals in the last two years. However. they had a miserable run during the 50-over World Cup in India, where they were beaten by Asian minnows Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, who finished second last in the 10-team table.
The team under Stokes will be eager to make amends and hence the 20-man team are preparing on turning pitches, simulating match scenarios.
“Back together, preparing, building,” England team posted on X with pictures of stars Joe Root and Stokes soaking up the Abu Dhabi sunshine as they kick-started their 10-day training session at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
With the series spanning seven weeks and with no guarantees over the quality of the players they would come up against in warm-ups, England batsman Ben Duckett is confident the decision will prove wise.
“There’s training every day and we’re hitting thousands of balls, with the bowlers bowling to us,” he told the Sky Sports Cricket podcast.
India have included four spinners, including Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav. The duo did not travel to South Africa for the recent drawn Test series against the Proteas, but come back into contention on home pitches that are expected to take plenty of turn.
Ashwin closing in on a milestone
They join Ravichandran Ashwin and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja in a 16-man party. Ashwin needs just 10 more wickets to become the ninth bowler to take 500 career wickets in Tests. The 95-Test off-spinner currently sits in second place in wickets taken for India behind Anil Kumble (619).
“There probably is loads of spinners in India but none of them are (Ravindra) Jadeja, Axar Patel and (Ravichandran) Ashwin,” Duckett said
“You might face a 15-year-old off-spinner in the nets but that’s not really going to equip you for the first Test match.
“We’ve got quite a big squad with us and there will be hours of training every day. In India you are pretty hotel-bound, the luxury of being in Abu Dhabi is you can get out and about for an extra 10 days.
Mental side of the game
“India can be a really tough place to tour, everyone knows that.
“The mental side of the game is just as important and I don’t think there’s too many complaints from that squad, who are having 10 days in Abu Dhabi rather than 10 days stuck in a hotel.”
When England last toured India in 2021, it crumbled in the face of extreme turn as Ashwin and Patel combined to take 60 wickets.
— With inputs from agencies