Bar 2005, winning in India was a career high


Winning in India is only topped by the 2005 Ashes

India is a fantastic place to tour – I have wonderful memories of it.

Winning over there in 2012 was as good as winning the 2010/11 Ashes in Australia. You want to beat the best, and we beat an India side with Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, and young versions of Che Pujara, Virat Kohli and Ravi Ashwin.

The Australia side we beat a couple of years earlier wasn’t great. When we played the great Australia team away in 2006/07, we got absolutely smashed.

Beating the great Australia side in 2005 was the best moment of my career, but I’d say No. 2 was winning in India.

Not selecting Jonny Bairstow is a massive mistake

I understand that players need to rest, but Jonny Bairstow is someone you simply have to include for a Test series in India.

Bairstow is a good player of spin, will love India and would have added those crucial ingredients to an inexperienced top three.

One of the keys to winning a series over there is scoring big runs, so not going in with one of your best players of spin is a massive mistake. There will be other chances for him to rest – this is a series when England need him.

It’s not just that he’s a good player of spin, but that he is accustomed to Indian conditions. When you tour India, you can become frightened because all the chat about how difficult it’s going to be is in your head.

There are other elements of touring India that can be difficult for English players, too – the culture is amazing, but it is something that you need to get used to. You need to be on top of all of those things so that you can go out and bat with a clear mind.

Bairstow has played in the IPL and he is much-loved there because of his performances for Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Yes, he’s a good player of spin, but he will love India, he will feel at home in India, and that would have been a crucial ingredient for a top three that is otherwise lacking that experience.

England can score big runs if they practise hard

I tweeted recently about the email Rahul Dravid sent me when I was struggling against spin – it was full of golden technical advice that I believe some of England’s top order could do with taking on board.

I don’t agree that the short turnaround between Test matches in Sri Lanka and India is an excuse for Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley not to work hard on those technical adjustments right now.

We know they are fine players with strong temperaments – they have proved that – but technically they will need to improve to go well in this series.

I had drills and routines that I went through myself and with others before that 2012 series.

I spent hours and hours with Bairstow and Joe Root in the nets before the first Test match in 2012. I tried to help them understand how to play spin, imparting all of the knowledge that I had gained from Dravid, and it’s been fantastic to see them turn into such top players of spin.

Root actually messaged me last week saying that he’s still doing all of the same stuff that I practised with him in 2012. He now needs to work with his opening batsmen in the same way.

It is worth saying, after he passed my career Test runs tally, how brilliant it has been to watch Root evolve into one of England’s greatest ever batsmen.

It’s amazing to have been there at the start of his international career, and having seen the work that went into his batting then, he deserves all of the accolades that he is earning now.

His performance is going to be key to England’s chances here and, if he goes as well as I expect, then I have a quiet confidence that England can score the runs they will need.

Sibley showed some signs of form at the end of the last match in Sri Lanka, while Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope (fitness permitting) come back into the picture.

They’ve also got Jacques Kallis, who I believe is the greatest cricketer to ever play the game, there as batting coach.

His technique is so good, and he has such incredible experience, that if England’s young batsmen follow his lead, they’re not going to go too far wrong.

Pace is the key to spin bowling in India

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Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar were unbelievable for us in 2012.

It’s going to be hard for Dom Bess and Jack Leach to live up to those standards, because Swann and Panesar are simply better bowlers than them, but there are still elements that they can learn.

It was the speed at which Swann and Panesar bowled in 2012 that was the key to winning us the series.

They bowled a lot faster than they usually would, and much faster than the Indian spinners. In the third and fourth tests, the Indian spinners had cottoned on and started bowling quicker themselves.

Even if these guys don’t have the same control and skill, that is something I’d like to see from them this week.

As ever, all eyes are on Virat Kohli

From an Indian perspective, they are in such a good place at the moment that it’s hard to pick out too many areas of weakness.

The big talking point throughout this series is going to be Virat Kohli coming back into the side as captain. People have wondered about him returning as skipper, considering that he now has the added responsibility of being a dad.

I know from experience that becoming a father can be a difficult moment in your career. Previously, you are able simply to focus on batting and captaincy, whereas there is now a fair amount more going on in your life.

Ajinkya Rahane was outstanding when he stood in as captain in Australia, too – he was so calm, patient and decisive.

But Kohli will want to be captain, and to lead from the front.

He’s a superstar, unbelievable, and – with a point to prove, after his side won a big series without him – he will want to go big.

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