Monty Panesar has picked out Ravichandran Ashwin as the key threat to England’s chances of winning the upcoming four-match Test series in India. Ashwin was in excellent form with the ball during the recent tour of Australia where he played a vital role in India’s 2-1 series win.

Thrice Ashwin got the better of Steve Smith in six innings during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with the Australian admitting he had never allowed any bowler to dictate terms like the India offspinner in his career before. Panesar, himself a spinner, reckons how well England negotiate Ashwin will decide the outcome of the series.

“Ashwin had a great tour of Australia and will come into the series with tons of confidence,” Panesar told The Times of India. “How England play Ashwin will decide the outcome of the series. Ashwin has become smarter with the way he has bowled in recent times and is in prime form.”

“(Ravindra) Jadeja will be missed. The second spinner will be crucial for India as Ashwin will need support from the other end to put England under pressure. They have named Axar Patel in the squad but I do believe that Jadeja adds a different dimension to the Indian team,” he added.

England captain Joe Root was in sublime form hitting two daddy hundreds during the Sri Lanka tour where clean swept a two-match Test series. Panesar reckons Root’s form with the bat will again play a crucial role. “If England are to have a chance of winning this series, Root will have to bat well. He needs to bat for long periods of time just like Alastair Cook did during the 2012-13 series. He has been brilliant in Sri Lanka and I do hope Root continues batting in the same way against India,” he said.

The first two Tests will be played at Chennai’s MA Chidambaram Stadium and Panesar predicts winning the opener will do England’s confidence a world of good. “If they manage to win a game in Chennai — they will get a lot of confidence for the rest of the series. I expect England to put in a good fight against a strong Indian side,” he said.

England were the last team to win a Test series in India during the 2012-13 tour.