Kevin Pietersen thinks England could be in for a particularly tough Test series at home to India in the absence of Graeme Swann.
Off-spinner Swann’s retirement during England’s 5-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia has left Alastair Cook’s side without a specialist slow bowler, given the selectors refusal to recall Monty Panesar.
Swann took 255 wickets in 60 Tests and was a mainstay of the attack. This was in sharp contrast to the situation during the team’s recent 1-0 defeat in a two-Test series at home to Sri Lanka where off-spin was provided by Moeen Ali, primarily a batsman, whom England captain Alastair Cook appeared reluctant to trust with the ball.
Cook’s tactics were called into question that series but Pietersen- a former England captain who was sent into international exile after the Ashes by team management- said it was always going to be tough without Swann.
“Alastair Cook struggles to captain the side when opposition batters become established because he cannot toss the ball to Swann, who could defend and attack in equal measure,” Pietersen wrote in his column in Tuesday’s Daily Telegraph on the eve of the first of a five-Test series between England and India at Nottingham’s Trent Bridge ground.
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“Swann made Andrew Strauss’s captaincy look good and he made Cook’s look good, too, by making crucial breakthroughs when the opposition were threatening to take the game away.”
“It was down to Swann’s genius, and not tactical masterstrokes.”
“The Indians respect Swann hugely, they think he is a fantastic bowler and I know they are licking their lips about facing any other English spinner who bowls to them.”
Pietersen added India would be helped, just as Sri Lanka were, by the fact English pitches are not only no longer the green seamers of old but have also lost pace and increasingly resemble the kind of slow, low-bouncing surfaces found in the sub-continent.
“Home advantage was lost when new drainage systems were installed at Test venues turning our pitches into sandpits,” Pietersen said.
“They are horrendous. They give little to the seamers and when it spins, it does so slowly, negating the threat of the turning ball.”
“The drainage was addressed with the best of intentions; to give the public as much cricket as possible by reducing the amount of overs lost to rain.”
“It is good news for chief executives running grounds carrying the burden of heavy debts but in terms of the quality of cricket the public are seeing, it is not good enough…It is something that has really changed since India were beaten here 4-0 three years ago.”
Pietersen’s comments were echoed by England new-ball bowler Stuart Broad, who plays at Trent Bridge for county side Nottinghamshire.
“I know our players three or four years ago brought the theory up that they were making the wickets too dry too early, and it is quite hard to keep bounce in the wickets now – unless you leave them really green, which Test match wickets just don’t do,” Broad said.
“I think Test wickets should be flat – no doubt, because the crowds want to come and see runs scored.
“But if you catch the edge of a batsman, it’s got to carry to the wicketkeeper and the slips – that’s the number one rule.”