Former England captain Nasser Hussain has shared his thoughts on England's playing XI for the series opener against India in Hyderabad, expressing concerns about the team's balance. Hussain believes that England might have missed the mark by opting for three spinners in their lineup.
Hussain pointed out that even the legendary spinner Shane Warne, who had an exceptional career, struggled in Indian conditions. Despite this, he supports the inclusion of two relatively inexperienced spinners, Rehan Ahmed and Tom Hartley, due to the lack of match practice for their regular spinner, Jack Leach.
Jack Leach, known for his left-arm spin, hasn't played since the one-off Test against Ireland, and Hussain recognises the challenges of including him in the playing XI. In his pre-match analysis with Sky Sports, Hussain said, “You look at other countries that try to hit India with spin historically, Shane Warne didn’t get that many wickets and that much success in India, be it against the Fab Five and a different Indian batting lineup."
"I would like a more balanced bowling attack, but I guess with Rehan Ahmed's second Test match, he hardly debuted. Leach has not been bowling for a long time; they just feel they need three because, looking at that surface, it’s going to turn," he further added.
“One seamer, if you lose the toss...", questions Nasser Hussain
Nasser Hussain emphasises the inexperience factor, stating that the inclusion of spinners like Hartley and Ahmed is due to their limited exposure at the international level. He highlights that if experienced spinners like Swann or Panesar were available, England might have opted for a more balanced side.
Expressing disappointment with the decision to leave out James Anderson, a seasoned seamer with a commendable record in India, Hussain said, "One seamer, if you lose the toss, say tomorrow and it’s not doing that much and you’re starting with spin, you’re leaving out one of our greatest ever cricketers in Jimmy Anderson, arguably, our greatest ever bowlers in my eyes who has a pretty good record in this subcontinent.”
On the other hand, former England skipper Michael Atherton noted that debutant Tom Hartley, compared to Axar Patel, and Rehan Ahmed, who had a decent start in Pakistan, would have significant roles to play in the Test series. Hartley, with 40 wickets in 20 first-class matches for Lancashire, brings promise, while Ahmed had a successful Test debut in Pakistan. The discussions around England's playing XI highlight the strategic decisions and challenges faced by the team as they kick off the Test series against India.