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Will England still go for Bazball on India’s spinning tracks?

England tour of India 2023-24: Will England go for Bazball on India's spinning track or change the style of play?

England vs Pakistan, Tests, 2022_ England whitewash Pakistan by 3-0 on England tour of Pakistan 2022 in Tests _ Walking wicket (Source_ ©X/Twitter)
Will England continue to play Bazball in spinning conditions? (Source: ©X/Twitter)

England’s captain-coach duo of Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum has transformed the dynamics of Test cricket. Previously seen as a boring format, Test cricket has gained excitement since the introduction of this pair, which has taken charge of England’s Test team.  Bazball, a term which came after the fresh England side decided to play counterattacking, fearless and aggressive cricket, changed their fortunes in the longest format after facing a series of disappointing results.

However, they will face their toughest challenge yet when they square off against India for a five-match Test series, starting in January 2024. It is because the stroke playing becomes challenging on pitches which offers sharp turns and inconsistent bounce.

Speaking on Australia’s official television broadcaster, Fox Cricket, the Former England skipper Michael Vaughan though has cautioned the team ahead of their India tour in the new year, a place he considers ‘the hardest’ to play considering the wealth of spin bowling talent they have at their disposal.

England’s vulnerability against spin

You can find substance in his statement if you just go back to the Ashes when Nathan Lyon was fit and bowling nicely, Australia were 2-0 up in the series. The right-arm off-spinner had picked two four-fers in two innings of the first match and took the crucial wicket of dangerous-looking opener Zak Crawly (48), providing a much-needed breakthrough before getting injured. 

Crawley, who opens the innings for the national side, averages only 32 against spin but struggles even more, averaging only as he averages a mere 16.7 against left-armers. It is quite similar to his opening partner Ben Dukett, who averages 27.7 against left-arm spinners while 32.9 is his overall average against spinners. 

Even skipper Stokes has struggled to score big in Indian conditions. He has amassed 538 runs at an average of 32.23 featuring just one century. Wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow, who had a terrific World Test Championship (WTC) Cycle with the bat, had laced only 289 in eight matches including three ducks, averaging only 29.92. Notably, he is yet to score a century in the red ball format against the Rohit Sharma-led side on Indian tracks. 

Lack of spin options for the Three Lions

Another area of concern for the visitors will be their bowling as they lack a quality spinner in the squad. They have Jack Leach, who picked 27 wickets in five matches in his last tour to India. He will need the help from youngsters Rehan Ahmed, Tom Heartly and Shoaib Bashir. Notably, Jack Leach hasn’t played an international match since his injury which he suffered during the 2023 Ashes. 

However, the only positive is the former skipper Joe Root, who had scored a double century in the first match of the five-match series when they last toured India. He has a good record averaging over 50 against spinners and in India. 

And hence, on the surfaces which are expected to turn from day 1, India’s deadliest duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja can cause trouble for England. Moreover, Axar Patel offers another great option for skipper Rohit. 

The ‘Ashwin-Jadeja’ question

Ashwin and Jadeja’s record is extraordinary against the Englishmen at their den. The right-arm spinner has bagged 74 wickets in 13 matches including a six-wicket haul and a ten-wicket haul, averaging 27.77. At the same time, the left-arm spinner has taken 29 wickets in only six matches at an average of 27.20 including a five-fer. 

Hence, it will be interesting to see whether they’ll change their pattern of approaching a test match or they’ll go all guns blazing right from the start. However, as we discussed it will not be an easy task for the visitors to beat this formidable India side which haven’t lost a test series at home since 2012. 


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