New Delhi, Nov 13: England faces a stiff task on slow pitches during the four-test series against India starting in Ahmedabad on Thursday, knowing the home team is ready to unleash a spin barrage to exact revenge for a 4-0 defeat in England last year.
England has had three practice games but was denied the chance of facing quality spin bowling. The three drawn games were dominated by the visitors but they know that runs plundered by them will count for little in the real tests.
India's selectors did not pick a specialist spinner in the India A side for the first game, there was no quality spinner in Mumbai A in the second, while the four-day game against Haryana saw captain Amit Mishra use his legspin sparingly.
"We can't control the opposition's plans," England captain Alastair Cook said after the final practice game against Haryana at Ahmedabad. "If you've been watching our training sessions while the matches have been going on, we've played some good spinners in the nets. I don't know who it has come from but clearly there's been a message of some sort."
Preventing England from playing good spinners in the practice games also affected India in that contenders did not get a decent shot at India's third slow bowler's slot. That went to Harbhajan Singh because of a paucity of spinners rather than his own good form.
"Appalling crkt (cricket) sense by Ind(ian) selectors- not quite crkt -home disadvantage-could well backfire-can't hide spinners like bent elbows," tweeted the great left-arm spinner Bishan Bedi.
India, which blanked New Zealand 2-0 in a recent home series in which offspinner Ravichandran Ashwin and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha established themselves as the two main slow bowlers, also has the option of Yuvraj Singh's left-arm spin which has largely been used in limited-overs cricket.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is clear he wants spin tracks for the England series.
"When we go to England, we get wickets that help the seamers and in Australia we get tracks which have bounce," Dhoni said. "In the subcontinent, spin is what matters and we should stick to that."
England, which has long struggled against spinners and lost 3-0 to Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates this year, has had the satisfaction of seeing Cook, Kevin Pietersen, Jonathan Trott and Samit Patel notch centuries in the warm-ups.
However, the team has faced a total of only 13.2 overs of spin on wearing tracks in the second innings of those three games, with Mishra not bowling even a single over in the second innings of the last game.
Also, England spinners Monty Panesar and Patel failed to get breakthroughs and didn't offer confidence of giving support to offspinner Graeme Swann.
Among the pace bowlers, Tim Bresnan has been impressive but injuries to Steve Finn (thigh) and Stuart Broad (heel) have been a setback even though the pair has been recovering well and Stuart Meaker has been drafted into the squad.
India's gain from the warm-up games has only been the confirmation of Yuvraj's return to the test side after making it for limited-over games following a fight with cancer.
A half century and a maiden five-for in first-class play for India A gave him a shot at the slot for the sixth batsman in the lineup, in which Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara have ensured a longer run after the retirements of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.
Star batsman Sachin Tendulkar, who struggled with incoming deliveries from pace bowlers during the New Zealand series, has warmed up for the tests by making a rare appearance in domestic cricket and scoring a century for Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy.
After the four tests, for which Mumbai, Kolkata and Nagpur are the other venues, England also plays two Twenty20s before returning home for Christmas. It will then come back to play five one-dayers in January.
India: Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Murali Vijay, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Harbhajan Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav.
England: Alastair Cook (captain), Nick Compton Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Matt Prior, Jonny Bairstow, Samit Patel, Graeme Swann, Monty Panesar, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Steve Finn, Graham Onions, James Anderson, Stuart Meaker.