Joe Root claims England are ready to banish the notion they are vulnerable against ‘mystery spin’ by taming Sri Lanka in their own conditions.
England have long been seen as a soft touch for top spinners and weak on turning conditions in the sub-continent, a reputation which was fairly earned over the years.
But much has changed about their one-day side in the past three years and Root believes the ongoing tour, which began with a washout and continues with Saturday’s second ODI in Dambulla, offers a chance to explode another myth.
To do so they will need to conquer Akila Dananjaya – who mixes up off-breaks, leg-spin and googlies – and the left-arm wrist spin of Lakshan Sandakan.
Dinesh Chandimal talked up the pair’s unpredictability on the eve of the series but Root is confident about the challenge ahead.
“Every bowler you’ve never faced before is mystery, because you don’t know what you’re going to get,” he said.
“But, as a batter, it’s very easy to build things up, to over-anticipate how things will go. Most importantly you have to play what’s in front of you. You can get yourself out by talking yourself out. You prepare, watch the footage, see how they operate and go and play accordingly.
“As a team, our record against spin is right up there if not the best in the world over the last couple of years. This is another opportunity to show everyone how good we are against spin and to perform well on these surfaces.
“It’s important to understand the rhythm of batting here is very different. The way we structure setting a target or chasing one down might be very different to how we go about it at home.
“The way we approach cricket in ODIs is very different since the last time we toured here (in 2014). The way these guys naturally play will always put bowlers under pressure, whether that’s seam or spin. We’ve done it in the majority of places throughout the world, but can we do it here on spinning surfaces?”
RASHID IS FINE AS WELL
Root was also quick to stick up for team-mate Adil Rashid who, along with all-rounder Moeen Ali, seemingly qualifies as ‘conventional’ by local standards.
The Yorkshire leg-spinner has 113 wickets to his name, including 36 this year, and will be relishing a central role across all formats in the coming weeks.
“I think Rash would be a bit disappointed by you saying there’s no mystery about how he bowls,” said Root. “He has a few tricks in his bag and I’m sure you’ll see that on these surfaces.”
Australia spin great Warne thinks the Yorkshire star could dominate the global game with the bat and feels Buttler would make a “very, very good” Test captain.
Warne worked with Buttler in his role as mentor for IPL outfit Rajasthan Royals, and is convinced the Lancashire keeper has credible Test leadership skills.
“I’ve worked with Jos a bit this year, and I think he’s someone who would make an excellent captain,” said Warne, of Buttler.
“I really enjoyed working with him, I’d like to think I helped him out a little bit.
“I really enjoyed his company, and talking the game of cricket with him. He would be a very, very good England captain.
“I think Joe Root is England’s best player. But he’ll be disappointed with his conversion rate when it comes to hundreds.
“He’d love to have more hundreds to be able to be spoken about in the same sentences as Virat Kohli and Steve Smith.
“I like Joe Root, he has a good manner about himself. He’s a gentleman.
“Maybe England could think about their best player having the shackles off, not having the responsibility of captaincy, and give it to someone like Jos Buttler.
“Jos could play with his freedom and captain the side, and Joe could just concentrate on his cricket.
“If he totally 100 per cent concentrates on his cricket, his batting and nothing else, then maybe we might see Joe Root become the best batsman in the world. He’s got the talent to do it.”
Warne is busy promoting his autobiography ‘No Spin’, where he charts his 708-wicket Test career in typically candid fashion.
The 49-year-old believes Australia have lost the “fear factor” ever since England won the 2005 Ashes.
But Warne also thinks next summer’s Ashes series in England could be very delicately balanced.
“I think they need to earn the respect back,” said Warne, of Smith and Warner.
“I don’t understand how it gets to that stage where you decide to take sandpaper into the dressing room and then use it on the ball.
“It’s going to be tough for them at first.
“Forgiveness takes time, but there’s nothing like making a couple of hundreds in a row and people thinking, ‘Oh, we’ve missed this guy’.
“They have to be aware that they’re in for a bit of a hostile time around the world until they’ve earned the respect back.
“By the time Smith and Warner are ready, Australia will be pleading to have them back, they are two of the top five best batsmen in the world. Australia desperately need them.
“I think Australia will give England a real run for their money next year.
“I don’t think England have feared Australia since they won the series in 2005, which they deserved to as the better side. Since then England realised Australia can be beaten.
“Australia haven’t really got too many X-factor players. But I don’t think Australia really fear England too much now either, aside from Jimmy Anderson bowling with the Dukes ball.”
Andrew Strauss will leave one of English cricket’s top jobs having paved the way for World Cup glory next summer, according to one-day captain Eoin Morgan.
Strauss announced on Wednesday he would not be returning to work as the national side’s director of cricket, having been on compassionate leave for the past four months.
His wife Ruth was diagnosed with cancer in December 2017 and the former Test captain has concluded he cannot balance his family’s needs alongside the day-to-day demands of his high-powered job.
Next summer sees England host both their first World Cup in 20 years and an Ashes series and the 41-year-old does not feel able to devote the necessary energy to the task.
Although he is exiting the stage earlier than hoped, having been charged with landing the country’s first major 50-over trophy when he took the job three-and-a-half years ago, there is no doubt about the impact he has had.
Strauss took the job in the aftermath of a World Cup fiasco in 2015 and oversaw sweeping changes that have helped transform England into the top-ranked side on the planet in a format which once served solely to expose their frailties.
That they go into this month’s five-match series against Sri Lanka as world number ones is down to positive coaching and skillful cricket but also Strauss’ early vision for the side.
“He’s been at the forefront of it, he was incredibly instrumental in our forward thinking and planning to the position we are in at the moment,” said Morgan at the series launch in Colombo.
“It’s easily brushed over but going back to the summer of 2015 the direction given by him to myself and Paul Farbrace – who was interim coach at time – and all the selectors was to build something to prepare for the 2019 World Cup.
“Without that direction we wouldn’t haven been allowed the freedom to play in that manner, to know we could plan four years ahead. The absolute clarity and direction he wanted us to go was quite a big deal. He will be missed because we’re coming towards the end of the cycle that he was at the very beginning of.”