Australian legend Shane Warne feels England captain Alastair Cook needs to get the best out of his senior players for England to have a real chance of winning in India © Getty Images
London: Nov 13, 2012
Australian legend Shane Warne shared a ‘five-point plan’ with the England team, that his team executed successfully during their tour of India in 2004.
The former leg-spinner shared the five points in a column for The Telegraph. The first point Warne wrote was for the bowlers to defend when they attack. He wrote, “Before my tour to India with Australia in 2004 – the first time I won a Test series in India – I was asked to prepare a presentation to the squad about how we could take 20 wickets and win. I put together a package for all the bowlers and they loved it.
“There were two important points: attacking bowling with defensive fields and defensive bowling with attacking fields. That sounds counterintuitive, so it’s important to grasp the thinking behind this statement.”
Warne added that such tactics worked wonders for the Australian team to contain India’s strong middle-order batting in 2004.
He wrote, “We went with that mindset in 2004 and it worked. If, for instance, Glenn McGrath was all over VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid then that was the time to adopt a defensive field and not be overly aggressive. With McGrath bowling well you knew they would be caught behind the wicket, lbw or bowled. So we defended with the field.
“When he’s just attempting to take the ball away from the right-hander – his stock ball, so defensive bowling – then attack with the field.”
Warne feels the Indian batsmen’s strength is their ability to hit boundaries. However, if English bowlers remain patient, they can frustrate the batsmen to play loose strokes.
“The Indian guys thrive on boundaries. They like to have momentum all the time. If you slow that down, be patient and try to ensure that when they hit good shots they don’t get boundaries, we found they became frustrated,” Warne noted. “They started playing attacking shots to your defensive bowling – the stock ball matched with aggressive fields. That is when you took a wicket and the theory worked.”
His second point highlights brave leadership. Warne feels if England is to be successful in the tour, Alastair Cook needs to be brave and creative as a leader.
He wrote, “As for the captain, it is a huge test for Alastair Cook on his first tour in the job. At times he will have to hold his nerve. So far the signs have been fantastic. His captaincy has been imaginative but you are never the best captain you can be in your first series. He will learn a lot about himself which will hold him in good stead.
“He has to be patient, communicate with his bowlers and be positive in everything he does, whether it is with body language, press conferences and interviews or batting.”
Warne also feels Cook needs to get the best out of his senior players for England to have a real chance of winning in India.
He wrote, “It is also important the senior players back him up with performances. If the Kevin Pietersens, Graeme Swanns and James Andersons don’t deliver then India are going to win.
“We won in India because the senior players stood up, put big runs on the board and ensured their mates were not coming to the crease under pressure. Pretty thirties are useless. It is about seeing the job through.”
Warne’s third mantra speaks of embracing the Indian culture. He says, “In 2004 we also learnt to embrace the environment. On previous tours we struggled partly because we let external influences get us down.
“The food, the traffic, the noise – all of it is in your face. The Indian fans are lovely, kind people, and they also know their cricket, but if you sign one autograph, there are another 1,000 people asking at the same time. The adulation can be too much.”
Warne advised the English players to embrace the Indian culture. He wrote, “All of these things got to us and as soon as the going became tough on the field we would start whingeing. We blamed the external factors rather than focusing on what we were doing out in the middle.
“England have to be able to adapt and embrace the whole package, because the culture and the people in India are wonderful.”
Despite being a successful spinner, Warne had little success in India. His fourth point talks about the importance of a spinner being versatile in the Indian conditions.
He wrote, “For spinners in India my advice is to realise you will be whacked at times. It is about summing up the conditions as quickly as you can.
“Some of the wickets they prepare mean you have to bowl faster than normal. On other pitches you will have to bowl slower.
“The surfaces change so much from city to city so you can’t just bowl your normal stuff and think that will be good enough.
“You have to adapt, concentrate and relish the challenge rather than worry about how good they are at playing spin.”
Teams from outside the sub-continent have often struggled to tackle the guile of Indian spinners. Warne recommended in his final point that the English batsmen, instead of playing attacking strokes, should focus on rotating strike often to unsettle the spinners.
“From a batting point of view, we realised that in the first 15 minutes you had to score singles. It is difficult at the start of an innings anywhere, but it is doubly so in India. The ball is turning and bouncing and you are wondering: ‘How am I going to score?’” wrote Warne. “We found it was all about singles to get your feet going, help you attune to the temperature and rotate the strike so the bowlers, particularly spinners, did not bowl ball after ball at the same batsman and build up pressure. Getting off strike was key, otherwise panic could set in.”