Every man and his dog can see that England have a problem against spin says Frank Gregan, but our players continue to deny it. So what next? Your guess is as good as Frank's...
"The paradox is, until the skipper and his players admit that there's a problem nothing will be done to rectify that which is most likely to result in England's demise – their inability to play spin."
It seems as if England's old nemesis is about to raise its ugly head and prevent them from retaining their World T20 crown. Stuart Broad's side were smashed by India at the weekend, it may have been a dead rubber but the manner of the defeat exposed just how fragile this batting line up is.
The major problem is the on-going state of denial that English cricket is in. Initially it was Kevin Pietersen that struggled against spin but he refused to bite the bullet and admit it was a problem that needed to be fixed. When KP was in the side, if there was a T20 batting failure it was his game that came under the microscope because it was a given that if Pietersen flopped with the bat then invariably England did.
Consequently, with Pietersen stuck in the naughty corner, the new kids on the block have had a chance to shine and show the cricketing world what they can do. Yesterday was an ideal opportunity against a decent Indian side in sub-continent conditions. Their batting performance was inept, they were totally bamboozled by spin and went on to record their lowest ever T20 international score of just 80 whilst attempting to chase down 171 to win.
Instead of standing up and saying, "We have a problem against spin and we are looking at ways to counteract it". the England captain issued a KP head-in-the-sand type statement denying that his team has a problem against the spinners. The problem will never be resolved if England continue living in fairyland and believing that they can play spin on sub-continent wickets. The opposition know all about it, it could soon be a case of get as many spinners onto the field as possible against the English.
So how can the problem be rectified? The majority of supporters (myself included) have no idea, that's why the ECB employs highly paid coaches. It seems sensible to assume that practice against our own spinners is high up the list of priorities with feedback from the bowlers on the mistakes our batsmen are making.
There's a lot of talk about batsmen playing to their strengths, those that can defend whilst pushing and prodding for ones and twos against the spinners should do so and occupy the crease. That's a dangerous game in the shorter format as the overs whittle away and scoreboard pressure gets the nerves jangling. The other train of thought is that this is a world title event and the games are over in the blink of an eye, attack, attack attack! The old 'why die not knowing?' applies, the batsmen might as well have a go and try and hit the spinners out of the park.
We supporters don't have the answer even though most of us can play tremendous cover drives off the best spinners in the world sat in our armchair with a cold beer in hand. It's the coaching staff that has to find the solution and work it out along with the players. The paradox is, until the skipper and his players admit that there's a problem nothing will be done to rectify that which is most likely to result in England's demise - their inability to play spin.
The tournament Winner market is a cracker with surprisingly the perennial chokers South Africa heading the market at 5.85/1. The 6.611/2 available on India looks very tempting but I'm sticking with my original recommendation and continuing to back Pakistan even though there odds have shortened to 7.06/1.
As for England, qualification for the Super Eight Series has seen their odds shorten a couple of points to 11.010/1 despite the fact that they only had to beat Afghanistan to make it through. The liability is too great to make an England lay a recommendation but I'll be happily pressing the lay button against England in the match odds market whenever they come up against a sub-continent side.. As long as they continue to deny they have a problem against spin it seems a pretty safe bet!