Saqlain key for Mo says Swann

The Cricket Paper - - NEWS - By Im­ran Marashli

ENG­LAND may be rid­ing the crest of a wave af­ter their se­ries win over South Africa and com­pre­hen­sive first Test vic­tory over the West Indies – but former bowler Graeme Swann says they are still stuck in the dark ages.

The 3-1 se­ries win over South Africa moved Joe Root’s men up to third in the ICC Test rank­ings – thanks in no small part to Moeen Ali, who be­came only the se­cond English­man af­ter Sir Ian Botham to claim 25 wick­ets and score more than 250 runs in a se­ries.

And Moeen’s rise to be­ing one of the best spin bowlers in world cricket has a lot to do with the role of former Pak­istan in­ter­na­tional Saqlain Mush­taq.

Saqlain is with the Eng­land camp on a con­sul­tancy ba­sis and has helped turn Ali from a part­time bowler into a vi­tal mem­ber of Root’s at­tack. But Swann has ques­tioned Eng­land’s de­ci­sion not to hand Saqlain a full-time con­tract.

“Saqlain isn’t on a 12-month con­tract, which is a joke,” Swann said.“It’s been a great ap­point­ment be­cause he’s done so well for Moeen. I couldn’t think of a greater man to have help­ing him.”

The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Moeen and Saqlain has plenty of sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween that of Swann and another former Pak­istan spin­ner, Mush­taq Ahmed.

Swann, who took 255 Test wick­ets at 29.96, says that his re­la­tion­ship with Mush­taq played a key part in his ca­reer and the ECB should look to pro­vide Moeen with all the tools he needs to suc­ceed.

Swann be­lieves the role of Saqlain is im­por­tant not just for his knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence on the cricket pitch but also to play the role of psy­chol­o­gist – just as Mush­taq did for him.

He added: “We never, ever spoke tech­ni­cally. So when I say spin coach, Mush­taq was like my men­tor, he was like a mate to talk to. He was my psy­chol­o­gist with­out hav­ing an MD af­ter his name. The ECB need to get out of the Dark Ages. Give the play­ers what they need to per­form.

“Peo­ple think psy­chol­ogy is see­ing a shrink, sit­ting down and talk­ing about fears and anx­i­eties. It’s the ex­act op­po­site. It’s about get­ting the best out of your men­tal state, so get­ting onto a field know­ing you’re go­ing to per­form on that day is no dif­fer­ent in Test cricket as it is in a club game on a Satur­day when you’re 15 years old.

“You’re the best player when you’re 15, even though you’re play­ing against men, and you know it. You have a nat­u­ral aura and an ar­ro­gance about you that gets grad­u­ally chipped away by the English sys­tem be­cause you’re told ‘don’t be cocky’.”

Ahead of the South Africa se­ries, Moeen in­di­cated he wanted to bat higher up the or­der and did not con­sider him­self the No.1 spin­ner.

And Eng­land coach Trevor Bayliss seemed to agree with him as Liam Daw­son was brought into the team as a spin bowler leav­ing Moeen as a bats­man who “bowls a lit­tle”.

The whole episode left Swann deeply unim­pressed. He said: “Moeen is a bril­liant lower-or­der bats­man. Leave him be – just don’t talk about him. If he doesn’t want to be the lime­light, don’t make him the lime­light. But don’t in­sult ev­ery­one’s in­tel­li­gence by say­ing Liam Daw­son’s a bet­ter bowler than him, es­pe­cially not Liam Daw­son’s in­tel­li­gence. That was em­bar­rass­ing.”

With the Ashes loom­ing large on the hori­zon, Swann does not see any rea­son to make any ma­jor changes to the Eng­land squad.

With four Test wins so far this sum­mer, Swann be­lieves Eng­land have a set­tled squad and would not be in favour of bring­ing Ma­son Crane into the at­tack just yet.

“To bring Ma­son in, it would be a big risk,” Swann added.

“A cou­ple of years down the line I hope Ma­son is tear­ing up county cricket, tear­ing up all cricket he plays.

“The fact that he went to Aus­tralia and the pos­i­tive Press that he got in get­ting into the state side as well is a good sign.

“But don’t just au­to­mat­i­cally think ‘bril­liant, we’ve got a leg­gie, get him in’. Just look at how many spin­ners we’ve ru­ined over the years by just throw­ing them in when they’re not ready.”

Graeme Swann was speak­ing in as­so­ci­a­tion with Spec­savers – ti­tle spon­sor of the County Cham­pi­onship. For in­for­ma­tion www.spec­savers.co.uk

Ad­vice: Graeme Swann

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