England confident they can deal with Ravichandran Ashwin

 

England are being urged to ignore the hype about Ravichandran Ashwin's new 'mystery ball', and simply play the off-spinner on his merits.

Alastair Cook and his fellow batsmen could be forgiven perhaps for some uncertainty on reading headlines in India today about Ashwin's latest delivery, and his intention to unveil it in the forthcoming four-Test series.

But they need only have a quick chat with their own spin wizard, slow-bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed, to conclude that they should not start fretting just yet.

Ashwin is already adept at his own version of the 'carrom ball', popularised by Sri Lanka's Ajantha Mendis, to go with his orthodox finger-spin.

Asked about his new prototype delivery, the 26-year-old told the Times of India: "I have been working on that ball for some time now.

"I might just use it in this series."

England, it seems, will not be suckered until the ball itself - as well as Ashwin - starts to talk.

Assistant coach Richard Halsall spent enough time on the Sussex staff with Pakistani leg-spinner Mushtaq to know some of the tricks of the trade are purely verbal.

"I was very fortunate to spend a few years with Mushtaq at Sussex, and Mushy would have a 'mystery ball' every week," he said.

"He'd show it to the opposition in the nets - and as we'd wander off he'd say 'that's just my leg-spinner'."

If Ashwin is not bluffing, however, England will be ready to adapt too.

"If he has got a mystery ball, that's fantastic for him - move cricket on, and all that," added Halsall.

"But I'm sure our batsmen will watch him carefully and deal with each ball as it comes."

It is well-chronicled already that England have been starved of useful match practice against frontline spin in their three warm-up fixtures here - a fact generally interpreted to be a tactic from on high in the India camp, to prevent the tourists becoming accustomed to the challenge they are about to face against Ashwin and slow left-armer Pragyan Ojha.

England are confident nonetheless they have done all they can to help themselves.

"It is frustrating, but we can't do anything about that," said Halsall.

"What we have been able to do is give the players sufficient practice of a high enough quality off the pitch that they feel ready.

"Then we hope that when you see them in the middle, they'll look quite comfortable with what's put up against them.

"The fact that the players feel ready, I think, is testament to what we've done."

England have offset the lack of exposure in the middle to quality spin by bringing in, with the help of their local hosts, skilled exponents and allowing them to bowl to their batsmen on scuffed net surfaces.

"It's not a concern, but it has been quite odd that we haven't faced the spin out in the middle - especially when there have been spinners playing.

"But we've been fortunate to have some exceptional net bowlers. Over here, you do get some exceptional players not in the games.

"So we've managed to get enough high-pressure, quality practice into the batsmen off the field so that they feel ready for the first Test."

England are well aware they must go, if not from nought to 90, as they switch from modest warm-up opposition to Test cricket then certainly right through the gears.

"I wouldn't describe it as a baptism of fire," said Halsall.

"But it will be different - Test cricket is very different from normal games.

"The players know that, but I think they'll be confident they've done the preparation which allows them - we hope - to be as successful as possible, come Thursday morning.

"I think we're delighted with the preparation - the amount of play we've managed to get into our batsmen, with five centuries so far and a lot of time in the middle.

"Our bowlers have managed to get enough significant spells into their legs, so that they feel ready."

The exceptions, of course, are first-choice seamers Steven Finn and Stuart Broad - who are hoping to recover in time from their respective thigh and heel injuries - and, to a lesser extent, off-spinner Graeme Swann following his brief return home while his baby daughter was unwell.

Swann was back with the squad this morning, after his 8,000-mile return trip in just a handful of days - and both Broad and Finn bowled off their full runs in the nets yesterday, the latter for the second time since he strained his thigh at the start of the tour.

"Steven and Stuart both looked fairly hostile," added Halsall.

"We'll monitor them over the next two days.

"It's fantastic to see where Steven is. We didn't think he'd be at this stage so soon.

"That's great, and Stuart is coming along exactly as we thought he would.

"Over the next two days, we'll know a little bit more. But we're happy with where they are at the moment."

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us