India spinners 'no mystery' - Swann
Graeme Swann does not believe that India's slow-bowling attack possesses the mystery to exploit England's recent struggles with spin on the subcontinent.
A record of just two Test victories from a possible 22 in Asia, excluding matches against Bangladesh, can largely be attributed to England's troubles against high-quality spin bowling.
These deficiencies were never more evident than in their most recent trips to Asia, where they were whitewashed 3-0 by Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates at the start of the year. A drawn series against Sri Lanka in April restored some pride but did nothing to hide the fact that England were nowhere near to finding a solution to their issues against spin.
During those five Test matches at the beginning of this year, spinners accounted for 84% of England's total dismissals, with Pakistan's Saeed Ajmal, who claimed 24 wickets in three Tests, the principal beneficiary. However, India's lack of a comparable, unorthodox spinner and the "more traditional" pitches - compared to the alien conditions of the UAE - give Swann confidence that there will not be a repeat of England's early 2012 woes.
"I think last winter was a bit different," Swann said. "First of all, when we played in Dubai that was not really the subcontinent, that wicket was very unique in the sense that it was very skiddy and span as well. India's wickets are more traditional, more what people are used to, so I would be very surprised if that happened again.
"Secondly, we were bowled out by a mystery spinner that batsmen could not pick. India are not really blessed with a mystery spinner like that."
Instead, the options in MS Dhoni's 15-man squad include the offspin of Ravichandran Ashwin and the recalled Harbhajan Singh and slow left-armer Pragyan Ojha.
Although Ashwin has enjoyed a promising start to his Test career, with 49 wickets at 26.63, Swann's contention that he does not fit the "mystery spinner" description may give England optimism of improving their concerning statistics against slow bowling. Swann admits that these now well-documented troubles have plagued England's subcontinent form but is expecting the Test pitches in India to turn less than the Mumbai dustbowls of old.
Discussing England's inability to play spin, Swann said: "That has been levelled at us for a few years now and justifiably so. We have had a poor record against spin bowling over there. I think that is more of a mental thing now because the wickets are not that different around the world. Certainly the wickets we played on in Sri Lanka were not really spin friendly.
"They were not any different to playing at Old Trafford or Trent Bridge. They tend to spin more on day four and five but at times like that we need to forget where we are playing and just go out and play the ball as it comes down."
Swann believes the batsmen have learnt from their struggles against Pakistan and Sri Lanka and are now better prepared tactically for the inevitable spin onslaught that will greet them when the first of four Tests begins in Ahmedabad on November 15.
"I think we went into our shells a bit in the UAE and suffered as a consequence," he said. "We have learned, certainly as batsmen, that you have to be positive and you have to be more aggressive when you bat. We have got so much talent in the squad that I would not be surprised if we went to India in the Test series and really dominated with the bat."
Not since defeating Sri Lanka in 2000-01 have England claimed an away series victory over one of the major subcontinental nations, and just twice in eight attempts have they left with a draw. Swann, however, is adamant that they are capable of ending their suffering in Alastair Cook's first series as official Test captain.
"It is probably the trickiest place in the world to go and win apart from Australia. We did it in Australia; we went over there and we won 3-1," Swann said. "Most of the current team have got experience of that tour and we need to take that to India, use that and go there with belief that we can win.
"They are exceptionally good players on their own pitches. We are going to need to play very good cricket to beat them, but I firmly believe we can do it."
Graeme Swann was speaking at a spin masterclass organised by Rubicon - www.RubiconExotic.com/LoveCricket