This is your chance to be the star turn, Swann tells England’s spin trio
Joe Root’s slow bowlers must step up to the plate on Sri Lanka’s turning pitches, writes Pippa Field
After a summer of hard work in home conditions, England’s spinners should be “licking their lips” at the prospect of bowling in Sri Lanka, according to Graeme Swann.
The tour to Sri Lanka is England’s first Test series in the country in six years. Only two players – James Anderson and Stuart Broad – remain from that 2012 party, but the entire squad will be well drilled on the turning pitches that await them.
All-rounder Moeen Ali and legspinner Adil Rashid, part of Eoin Morgan’s one-day team, will get a taste of things before the first Test in Galle in a month’s time while Jack Leach, recalled for the first time since his Test debut against New Zealand in March, is the third spinner in the Test squad.
Given the spinner-friendly conditions, Swann wants to see the players step up to the mark.
“If you go to India or Sri Lanka as a spinner, it’s your chance. You have to go to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, they are not easy places to bowl,” said Swann. “When the ball is in your court, lick your lips and say, ‘This is my time now’.”
Swann twice toured Sri Lanka, first in 2007 when he was understudy to Monty Panesar but played in the one-day matches, and in 2012.
Across that two-Test series, the off-spinner finished with 16 wickets at an average of 22.18 – his lowest career average when touring any of the sub-continental nations.
After this summer’s matches against Pakistan and India failed to produce a clear answer to who should be England’s No1 spinner, Swann believes the trio should relish the opportunity ahead.
“Before I got on the plane, I would think, ‘This is it, I’m going to have a massive tour’,” he added. “If I was one of the spin bowlers I would be going out there not thinking, ‘Oh, there’s going to be expectation because it spins and you’re supposed to do well.’ Yes, you are supposed to do well, so go and do well.”
Last week, England captain Joe Root mused that either Rashid or Leach could open the bowling, replicating a move by Sri Lanka, who gave the new ball to two spinners against South Africa this year.
However, Swann has reservations about Rashid, instead believing the coaches should persevere with Moeen as their main spinner.
“Adil is a lovely lad. But I don’t think he is a Test-match spin bowler because he doesn’t believe it,” Swann said. “He absolutely could be. If he can do it with the white ball, he can do it with the red ball. But I think at the minute, they all just need sitting down and an arm putting around them.
“Moeen [should be told]: ‘You’re No1, you’re going to be for the foreseeable future because you’re a very good batsman as well. Why don’t you just go and be the No1 spinner that you [were] three years ago and stop worrying about it?’”
Graeme Swann was speaking at the launch of the Cricket World Cup Participation Plan
Rainy day: Eoin Morgan after the game with a Sri Lanka Cricket XI was called off yesterday