Ian Botham believes England’s end of year tour programme will be judged on their upcoming five-Test tour of India, rather than a stunning loss to Bangladesh. England, 100 without loss at Tea on Sunday’s third day in Dhaka, collapsed to 164 all out on a spin-friendly pitch to lose by 108 runs — their first Test match defeat by Bangladesh.
The result saw Bangladesh share the two-match series 1-1 and raised fresh concerns over how England would cope in similar conditions in India, whose attack will feature off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin — Test cricket’s number one-ranked bowler.
“It (a rapid collapse) can happen in that part of the world,” England great Botham told AFP in an interview in London on Sunday.
“The wickets are tailored, they are designed to spin. When you see spinners opening in Tests with the new ball, you get an idea of what’s coming.
“It’s good for them (Bangladesh). But what they’ve got to do is to start winning outside of their own country. That’s the acid test and that’s what England have got to do now.
“At the end of the day, they’ll be judged not so much on what happens in Bangladesh, but they will be judged more on what happens in India.”
While questions remain about England’s spinners, and their ability to play spin, Botham said all was far from lost for Alastair Cook’s side as they headed to India.
“England have got the bowlers who can take the pitch out of the equation with reverse swing,” the former pace bowling all-rounder added. “If they go out there and they perform they can win.”
Stuart Broad, controversially rested in Dhaka, is set to lead England’s pace attack and make his 100th Test appearance when the India series opener in Rajkot starts on November 9.
“I presented him with his cap when he first played in Colombo,” said Botham. “There was stuff about Stuart Broad ‘the enforcer’. He got a bit caught up in that.
“But he’s bowled his best spells when he bowls at the top of off stump, Australia at The Oval (when Broad took four for eight in 2009), Australia at Trent Bridge (eight for 15 in 2015).”
‘Box office’ Stokes
As for the decision to rest Broad, Botham said: “Bowlers, rotate them. I was more in the Ben Stokes category. He won’t get rested and I wouldn’t have either.”
Durham all-rounder Stokes starred with both bat and ball in England’s 22-run win in the first Test against Bangladesh and Botham said: “I think he’s fantastic. I think he’s box office. I love watching him play, I like his attitude, I like the aggression.
“He’s the kind of cricketer you’ll cross the road to watch. It is all a learning curve for him now, but he learns quickly,” said Botham in an interview at a Hardy’s wine-tasting event in London.
Botham, however, forecast changes to England’s faltering top order.
“I think someone like Jos Buttler might come into the equation. Spinners, he can destroy them. They (England) are not going to do anything drastic. Maybe Buttler comes in for someone like Gary Ballance, perhaps?”
As the cricket-lovers among the wine-buffs at London’s Olympia exhibition centre posed for ‘selfies’ with Botham, he recalled how a friendship with the late English cricket broadcaster John Arlott — also a noted wine writer — had broadened his horizons.
“John took me under his wing when I was about 16 or 17,” said Botham, himself now 60. “We got on very well and stayed friends. I helped carry the coffin at his funeral. He was a wonderful man.
“I was a boy from Somerset and we used to drink cider. He started my education in wine.
“We bought a house just down the road from him (in the Channel Island of Alderney).
“Now when I go to Alderney I always get a very good bottle of red, go down to his grave, take the cork out, toast him with a glass, and leave the cork on the grave.”