November 13, 2001

Giles seeks fitness and form to take on the Indians at his best

ashley Giles
Giles - getting fit
Photo CricInfo

It would not be unusual for someone making his Test debut back in 1998 to have become established as his country's leading spin bowler. It is a little more unlikely, however, bearing in mind that he has only played eight Tests in that time.

The reputation that Ashley Giles has established for himself is based on the fact that he was clearly England's best spinner in Pakistan last winter and, to a slightly lesser degree, in Sri Lanka. Twenty-three of his twenty-six Test wickets came on that trip but what should have proved to be a sound platform from which to progress was destroyed by a long-standing achilles injury. He missed the Tests against Pakistan last summer, played one, at Edgbaston, against Australia when not really fit, and that was that.

Such is his importance to the England set-up with a dearth of other young, quality spinners on the circuit that everything has been done to get him fit in time to pick up from where he left off last winter. As he says himself, he would not be ready to play tomorrow but there is a fighting chance he will be able to stand muster for the First Test starting at Mohali on December 3rd.

"I've made a lot of progress over the past four weeks and with a lot more hard work and a little bit of luck I should be close to being fully fit for the First Test."

It might be thought that, with so much being attached to the Warwickshire left-arm spinner's fitness with regard to England's hopes that there would be undue pressure on him. However, he acknowledges that Test cricket is no game to play if the situation does not inspire you. "There's always pressure in Test cricket; it's the highest pressure you can get in the game. I'm just hoping that I'll be fit enough to play a part in this tour which should be a wonderful experience for everyone. To bowl to the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly is a dream, in front of perhaps 100,000 people, so I just really hope I'm going to play."

He is not too worried about possibly going into a Test without any decent preparation. "I haven't bowled since July, so it's a long lay-off but I'm pretty confident that, if I can get on grass and incorporate my cricket with the rest of my rehabilitation, I will be somewhere close to being fit. The wickets should turn and even if I know I'm going to be bowling to some of the best players in the world, if the wickets turn it does make it easier to settle into a rhythm."

Giles is also looking forward to being able to recapture the form that he showed last winter. "To bowl to the players I did in Pakistan and to have success against them obviously gives the confidence to go on and do it again. It was a difficult trip in Pakistan as it will be in India, I'm sure, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope to enjoy India as much."

Whether he does enjoy it as much will depend on his fitness and then his form. It is asking a lot of a young spinner, still learning his craft, to perform from the off without any chance to build up cricket fitness, rhythm and confidence. But perhaps that added pressure will bring out the best in Giles.