Both teams anticipate the pitch at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium will take spin throughout. And while England came into the tour expecting that any four-man attack, supplemented by Joe Root’s slow bowling, would be split evenly between seam and spin, they could veer more to the latter given what they have seen of the surface.
Speaking to the travelling UK media on Tuesday, Stokes insisted he’d be happy to back “any” of England’s four seamers to lead the line, but acknowledged that Wood’s extreme pace was a tempting option to turn to.
“If we do choose to go with just the one seamer, you can’t deny what Woody possesses as a package,” Stokes said. “His express pace and he can get the ball reverse swinging as well … the skill that he has is obviously something that you want in your team. We’ve got out-and-out pace with Gus and Woody, then we’ve got the unbelievable skillset that Jimmy and Robbo possess. We’ve got all bases covered with whatever team we decide to go with.”
Though there has been no official confirmation of the starting XI just yet, Stokes used his Tuesday briefing with the travelling written media to champion his spinners.
“I just think we have picked the spinners who we best feel are going to give us the best opportunity to win out here, regardless of experience,” the England captain said. “Sometimes experience can be a little over-rated and over-thought.
“The guys that we’ve got here are going to give us the best possible chance of winning and, regardless of the end result, we came out here with the best squad to give us the best chance to do that.”
“There’s no doubt about the skill Ben Foakes possesses behind the stumps,” Stokes said. “He can not only do things other keepers can’t but also make them look incredibly easy. So having someone like that behind the sticks is useful, especially if we do find ourselves in conditions where the ball is spinning. He’s a very special talent behind there and having someone like that can maybe take a two per cent, three per cent chance that could be massive in the series. It’s good to have someone like that behind the stumps.
“I’ve already spoken to him (Bairstow) and told him Ben Foakes is going to keep and he should just worry about batting at No.5. We’ve seen what happened when he was given clarity over his role in my first summer as captain, we saw what we managed to get out of him, and I don’t want him to worry about anything other than batting at five, getting runs and what’s in front of him in the here and now.”
Speaking more broadly on England’s approach to selection over the coming weeks, Stokes reiterated the need for dexterity, both in terms of thinking and use of resources.
“I guess it’s about, when picking the team, what you think is going to give you the best chance of winning, and who is going to offer you more in certain conditions. Whatever bowling attack we go for, if it is going to be one seamer, who is that seamer going to be? Who is going to be the most capable of exploiting conditions and how we want that bowler to bowl? If it is two seamers, then who do we want those two together (to be)?
“India is one of those places where you’ve got to think about selection a lot more than anywhere else in the world, because of what you can get from the wicket.”
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo
Source website: www.espncricinfo.com