Ahmedabad: The England players are taking a leaf out of former India captain Rahul Dravid’s book as far as playing spin bowling is concerned, ahead of the upcoming four-match Test series against India.
“We are going through videos to analyse how Rahul Dravid had played spin, used his feet against the spinners and utilised the depth of the crease to defend and attack,” batsman Ian Bell said.
Bell will return to England for the birth of his first child and will miss the second Test, which begins on November 23. As someone who has played in all of England's last 34 Tests, generally with distinction, Bell feels he has built enough credit to automatically regain his place when he returns for the third Test in Calcutta.
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“I’d like to think I’d come straight back in,” Bell said. “Andy Flower has been so supportive of me going home from when I first had a chat with him about it in the summer."
“"If we win the Test that I miss and something happens, I will have to fight like hell to get my place back. That’s the risk you take."
“But attending the birth (of my child) is the most exciting part of my life and I am willing to do that as family comes first. I'd like to think I'd be able to come straight back into the team, and I hope we win the Test.”
Bell admitted that the thought of going home had caused his mind to wander, but not when he was batting.
“There are some big things going on in the next couple of weeks for me, but I'm still desperate to score as many runs as possible for England,” he said. “I’m very lucky. My wife Chantelle and family are very supportive and everything will be very much focused on here until the day I get home.”
But, according to an English daily, Bell would probably also have been dropped for the poor run of form that has overcome him of late.
In the tour matches so far, he was unable to get a start until the second innings against Mumbai A, and only then because he was dropped off the first ball he faced, as he turned an off break round the corner to backward short-leg.
“It was a bit of luck, which I needed,” said Bell. “There’s no substitute for having time in the middle and I hope I can make the most of it in the next four-day game as well.”
Bell had struggled badly against Pakistan’s spinners in the United Arab Emirates eight months ago, when he made just 52 runs in six Test innings. “Obviously, the conditions are completely different to what we see and grow up with in England,” said Bell. “The difficult thing in the middle order is starting, and trying to get through your first 20 or 30 deliveries. As soon as you can get in, it becomes a bit easier. That’s the goal."
“After the hard series against Pakistan, I've worked as hard as I can on playing spin. You need a slightly different technique out here, maybe staying a little bit lower in your stance to get down on the ball."
“The importance of footwork here is also going to be massive. As Andy and Graham Gooch have stressed, if you're going to come forward, you go right forward, back, you go right back. In that Pakistan series, a lot of us got caught on the crease,” he said.
Meanwhile, predicting that the series will be “closely-contested” one, England wicketkeeper Matt Prior said that the visiting batsmen will “wisely” employ the sweep shot to tame spinners.
“It depends on the batsmen and the bowler he is up against... If he feels that he is comfortable playing the sweep shot to negate spinners, then he may as well employ that. But, personally, I feel that it depends on the merit (length and trajectory) of the ball,” Prior said.
“Any Test series in India is a challenge… More so, when you look back and see that the last time you won was 28 years back. We will draw back from our previous experiences of having played here and try to avoid committing same mistakes again,” Prior added.
The England players were interacting with the media ahead of the third and final practice match, against Haryana, starting here on Thursday. The first Test begins from November 15.
To a question whether this team was better than the Andrew Flintoff-led side of 2006 or the 2008 side captained by Andrew Strauss, Prior said: “We have a much more experienced team this time around. The likes of (Kevin) Pietersen, (Ian) Bell, (Alastair) Cook, who have played here earlier, will help us immensely.”
On missing Strauss’ experience at the top of the order, he said: “Strauss is a class player… He’s won a lot of games for us. He had a wealth of experience of how to operate against the spinners.”
Prior also hoped that injured pacers Steve Finn and Stuart Broad would recover in time for the opening Test. “Broad’s injury was a lesser concern while Finn’s condition is being monitored,” he informed.