India vs England: Absence of Ben Stokes will hurt England, says Graeme Swann | Cricket News

CHENNAI: India last tasted a Test series win on English soil back in 2007. Since then, India have failed to win during their tours in 2011, 2014 and in 2018. Virat Kohli’s boys will once be fighting it out to reclaim the Pataudi Trophy with the opening Test starting in Nottingham from August 4. Graeme Swann, former England off-spinner, chatted with TOI on how the two teams are placed, how the hosts will be affected by the absence of Ben Stokes and more.
How do you assess the two teams ahead of the five-Test series?
I feel India will be hurting after their loss to New Zealand in the World Test championship final and will want to show that they are a top side that can perform in all conditions. Both teams possess very strong bowling attacks. But India is superior to England in the batting department. If you look at India’s top-6 – they are more experienced than the English counterparts.
Do you reckon Kohli will be under more scrutiny as he is yet to win a Test series in England?
It always amuses me from English point of view — what would any nation around the world give to have Virat playing for them. I think India should be grateful that they have a player of Virat’s calibre. Virat will be as hungry as ever to win in England. He is a good captain and more importantly — a brilliant player.
Is India’s opening combination a concern in the absence of Shubman Gill?
The hardest place to bat in England is the opening slot. It’s a challenge to bat with a new Dukes ball and against a bowler of James Anderson and Stuart Broad’s class. It is going to be a challenge for openers from both teams but whoever gets picked will have to back themselves to deliver. The best place to bat is No.4 or 5 in England.
How do you see R Ashwin’s role in this team?
Ashwin, in my opinion, should definitely play all the games because he has done well in counties that he played for. Lot of overseas teams make the mistake of playing 4-5 seamers in England. Three should be enough to do the job while the lone spinner is expected to bowl 30-40 overs across the two innings of any Test. Overseas teams often overlook the role of a spinner in England. If you look back at my record, I actually took more wickets at home than away series. England is a good place to bowl spin, especially the second innings.
Your thoughts on Ben Stokes taking an indefinite break from the game…
A lot of people were taken by surprise by his decision and I knew I was. It is actually very brave of Stokes to actually say that he needs some time away from the game. When he said that, it could have got a lot of people —in the old-fashioned way — thinking it’s stupid. I think the weakest thing that anyone could do is to ignore signs of not being in mentally — and carry on regardless — and that may lead to a detrimental effect later on in life.
How do you assess the England team without Stokes?
England without Stokes is undoubtedly weaker. I say this from the batting point of view. If I see the top-order of this England team it doesn’t fill me with any confidence. Joe Root is definitely a player who will get the runs and one or two from the rest of the top-order may get hundreds here and there but they aren’t consistent enough to fill anyone with confidence. Stokes will be missed by England in this series.
Your prediction for the series…
It will definitely be a close series but I feel India are going to win 3-2 because of slightly better batting pedigree. The absence of Ben Stokes will hurt England because he normally wins Test matches on his own.

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